Sunday, August 7, 2016

Why the devil is a blessing to the team

Photo by Johnny Delos Santos

( Thank you, Mr. Raymund Miranda for the tip on this subject. )

The most annoying person in a meeting is the one who “sounds so negative” about anything.  The wet blanket thinks that the group’s idea will never work and they cast doubt on a big project that’s launching in a matter of days !

We become suspicious of them. We would think they’re trying to compete with us, they’re threatened by us, they want our position or they’re just a natural born contrarian. So, we avoid them in the cafeteria, talk behind their back and don’t invite them to the next meeting.

But the devil’s advocate could actually be the guardian angel who will save our lives !

In the history of nations at war, business and politics, countless disasters have happened because  people went along with the wrong decision. Losses have been in billions of dollars and thousands of lives.

Mistakes are often a result of a team habit called groupthink. It’s when people easily agree on an idea because they probably believe in one another too much, love another too much or tomorrow is the deadline for submission.

Believe it or not, the devil’s advocate actually came from a holy place called the Vatican. In 1578, the Vatican created the Devil’s Advocate office in which a canon lawyer was tasked to contradict every proposal to canonize a candidate for sainthood. The office’s job was to investigate miracles attributed to the person making sure there were no frauds.  It was Vatican’s way of keeping the process of sainthood beyond reproach.

So, I suggest we make it a sacred rule to have a devil’s advocate in every meeting. Designate someone. Take turns to play the role. Let us sacrifice harmony for the sake of better ideas.

Almost everyone likes meetings to be easy, short, fun and “productive.” Many of us hate debates. Well, let us try  to challenge ourselves a bit more because it will be worth it.

Of course, no idea is 100% foolproof. It is also not a totally bad thing to take risks and fail.  But it can be hard to forgive ourselves if we knew that we were too haphazard with our decisions.  

If you’re the boss, don’t be an intimidating dictator. Remind everyone that your ideas can be questioned without risk to their career.

If you’re the designated agent of evil, remind the others that you are just playing a role…especially when you start getting those dagger looks.

By the way, anyone is free to disagree with this article !

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