Be Your Own Devil’s Advocate

This week, Lizzie Pauker had a great post about How to Be a Well-Received Devil’s Advocate, and it made me think about why we make someone else fill the devil’s advocate role. Why don’t we ask ourselves the same question that a devil’s advocate would?

Have you ever had a fantastic idea and immediately called a friend or coworker to tell them about it only to have the idea torn apart?  It’s embarrassing.  If we stop, think, and ask ourselves the questions a devil’s advocate would, we could avoid the shame of an ill-conceived idea.

My suggestion is to take adequate time building an idea up (think out the logistics, plan who will be involved, imagine what resources will be required, etc) and then spend equally as much time trying to tear the idea down.  Just as you would in any brainstorming session, suspend judgement.  Don’t try to “answer” the devil’s advocate arguments, just generate the questions a devil’s advocate would make. Here are some basic examples:

  • We don’t have a budget for this.
  • There is no guarantee for success.
  • We won’t get enough buy-in from key stakeholders.
  • This will take too much time.
  • Our customers won’t buy it.
  • We don’t have an exit plan.
  • We already tried something like this.

If you take time to try to tear apart your own idea, then not only will the final presentation be more thorough, but you will be ready to answer your real life devil’s advocate’s tough questions.

How else can you prepare for tough examination of an idea?

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Editor’s Note: Breanne Harris is the Solutions Architect for Pearson TalentLens.  She works with customers to design selection and development plans that incorporate critical thinking assessments and training.  She has a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and has experience in recruiting, training, and HR consulting.  She is the chief blogger for Critical Thinkers and occasionally posts at ThinkWatson.  Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter for more of her thoughts.

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