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I was introduced to the concept of “red team” during the interview of the former US.army general Stanley McChrystal done by Tim Feriss.
This “red team” concept is not only commonly used in the military, but also in business.
And indeed you could also benefit from using it in your personal life.
But before I get to explain it, let me tell you a story to illustrate why you need a “red team”.
Samantha, a small business owner is wondering whether she should get rid of her IT manager Nigel.
He has been in the company for more than a year and seems to do the bare minimum.
He is smart and can find cost-effective solutions, but he is not proactive nor driving innovation. Plus, over the last meetings, his attitude was deplorable.
He heavily criticized ideas of other employees, without subtlety or care.
She opens up to her close colleague and sales director Emma about what to do.
And Emma is quite surprised with her interpretation.
Indeed, Nigel is not doing more than what he has to do, but his work is always done on time and correctly.
Plus, they are a consulting firm, which is not as emulating as Nigel’s previous job, CTO in a tech start-up.
Finally, she agrees that Nigel could use some tact, but, at least, he is straight-forward and speaks his mind.
And this begs the question, how can interpretations be so different when both Samantha and Emma work with the same person, Nigel, and see the same behavior?
In 1954, the psychology professors Hastorf and Cantril demonstrated a similar phenomenon with their famous case study called: “They Saw A Game”, where students from two differents universities saw the same football match, but drew completely different conclusions.
What does it mean?
Even though we believe to be objective, we are actually subject to selective attention and confirmation bias.
Basically our beliefs influence our view of the world and consequently our decision-making. We might unconsciously omit things or cherry-pick events to confirm what we believe to be true.
We filter information and weigh it differently based on many criteria.
In case of a football match, it could be our kiness, namely, the group we associate to.
As I am French, I will be naturally inclined to support the French team.
And that’s the same in business or in life, we can be blindsided by our beliefs.
And unfortunately, knowing we are subject to these cognitive biases is not enough to counter them.
So back to our “red team” concept.
The red team is in charge of bringing another perspective to our plan, to our decisions.
More specifically, they have to challenge assumptions, expose information we neglect or inflate. It’s there to dismiss any shortcomings, any blindspots. It helps to see things differently, from another angle.
So, to make better decisions, whether in business or in life, find someone that can give you critical feedback and highlight blindspots. In short, get yourself a “red team”.
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See you soon,