Volunteer to be the Devil in the next meeting

How to improve decision making?

Have you wondered why a lot of office decisions turn out to be incorrect or not so efficient when you look back in hindsight? Of course, you are more wiser after the implementation. You have more facts, data and results to judge the decision and the plan.

Nonetheless, the answer lies mostly on how we approach collective decision making at work. We make too many decisions at the eleventh hour. The urgency and the pressure to decide quite often lead to incorrect decisions. When we look back at our decisions, we find out that some arguments were never made. Some doubts were never discussed.

The group gets so excited with a random idea that no one asks the most critical questions.

The following are some SINS of the collective decision making process.

  • We do not think it is important enough. “It sounds simple enough. Could be taken care of anyways…..
  • Why should I bother?” Does not affect my job. I couldn’t care less….
  • I am sure he knows best.” Failure to question the authority or intelligence of a senior or experienced team member
  • Let’s get this over with.” There are several other important tasks to be completed
  • This has worked in the past too”. Just because something worked or failed in the past does not guarantee the same repeat outcome. The context may have changed

One or more of the reasons mentioned above prevent us from a thorough evaluation of each decision. What, where, why and how something can go wrong needs to be understood to calculate the impact of every decision.

The solution to improve decision making: Volunteer to be the Devil’s advocate.

The Devil’s Advocate

One person from the group of people in every meeting has to play the role of the Devil’s advocate. Designate one chair in the office meeting room as the “Devil’s Chair”. Randomly select one person to sit on the devil’s chair.

The person or the “Devil in the Meeting” needs to question every idea and argument.

The Devil’s Advocate in the meeting will “express a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of the opposing arguments”.

As the devil pretends to be against the proposed idea or plan that others support, this makes others discuss more and debate the idea in more detail. The conscious questioning of the merit of the plan and subsequent efforts by the others to validate the idea facilitate a thorough evaluation. It helps uncover probable failure modes and thus improves decision making for the group.

This process is effective as well as it makes the meeting lively and adds some fun for the group. There are times when the opposition sounds downright silly. Everyone knows that the devil is opposing and asking questions as he or she has a role to play. However, the fun and silly gets the job done. It makes people think and question. Volunteer to be the Devil in the next office meeting.

P.S. Originally published on BMB. For the full post, visit Business Management Blog.

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Nitesh Verma

Business Analyst, Blogger and Coach. I write about strategy, problem solving and people management.