Have you seen the movie World War Z?
If not, then you might not want to read the rest of this post as it will contain spoilers. You’ve been warned.
But really, you should go rent the movie soon. Even if you think the popularity of zombies has gone way too far (much like bacon and nutella these days), you will likely still find value in the movie in terms of it’s critical thinking lessons. Not only is the ending of the movie a great lesson in the critical thinking technique of deviation analysis, but I was particularly impacted by the discussion of the Tenth Man Strategy.
In World War Z, there was only one country that was surprisingly well-prepared for the zombie apocalypse. Shortly before the zombie apocalypse virus started spreading, Isreal built a giant concrete wall to keep zombies out. That begs the question….how did they know?! Why were they the only country that was prepared for something that seemingly no one expected? They built the wall because of the Tenth Man Strategy.
As a way to stop being unprepared for surprises and tragedies, the leadership in Israel instituted the Tenth Man policy, where if 9 men agreed on something, then it was the responsibility of the 10th man to disagree and plan for that situation…no matter how unlikely it may seem. So, when Israel saw an email that talked about zombies, even though 9 men scoffed at how preposterous it seemed, it was the responsibility of the 10th man to take the possibility seriously and create a strategy around it. Hence, the wall.
This strategy isn’t particularly novel or extraordinary. After all, it is really just a formal way to avoid groupthink, but as we all get wrapped up in our day to day activities at work, how often do we really consider and prepare for the unlikely? Almost never. In fact, it might even be discouraged. In the World War Z example, can you imagine the 10th man explaining that Israel needed to spend millions of dollars to build a giant wall just in case an unheard of zombie virus was real? How easy is it for you to get budget to start projects that are likely to be profitable? Probably pretty difficult in today’s economy.
But the results can be incredible. It’s like applying a Disaster
across everything you do. As a team, get together this week and talk about the value of differing opinions and the danger of groupthink. Make a decision that as a team, one person will always serve as Devil’s Advocate (or the Tenth Man). See how just considering the impossible opens your mind up to new ideas and makes you more prepared for the worst case scenario.
Does your team use a technique like the Tenth Man? How has it worked for you?
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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. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter for more of her thoughts.