Devil’s Advocacy —A Detriment In Group Decision Making

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  • Persuasive Arguments — People playing a role don’t argue forcefully or consistently enough for the minority viewpoint. On the other hand, people who believe in the alternate view come out with multiple ways to persuade people(Use visual, role-playing, prototype, audio, and other things). They present compelling arguments. Believing Dissenters target the emotional mind of listeners through their passionate appeal(The emotional mind takes most of the decisions).
  • The Imposter — Studies show that group members are less likely to take Devil’s Advocate seriously as they know that he/she is simply playing an opposing role. People see the person playing the role of Devil’s Advocate as one who expresses ideas that are not his. They subconsciously perceive him as insincere. In several cases, the team members simply paid lip service to Devil’s Advocate.

Dissenting for the sake of dissenting is not useful — Charlan Nemeth

  • The Downside of A Contrarian View — The goal of Devil’s Advocate is to find holes, biases, assumptions in the idea(presented) rather than searching for the truth or the best solution. It doesn’t bring the right kind of motivation for team members. Studies show that rather than pointing out the cons of the present idea, arguing for an alternative idea/solution goes a long way in helping the team move forward.
  • The Unfortunate Reinforcer — Experiments show that the input of Agent Of Dissents was not enough in changing the minds of people. In some cases, team members saw their opinions as a threat to their identity. They began defending their ideas vigorously. Agent of Dissents’ arguments deepened the confirmation bias and further strengthened the beliefs/ideas of team members.
  • The Psychological Safety — Research shows that in some cases, the opinions of the Devil’s Advocate have made people angrier, resulting in unresolvable conflicts. Observations indicate that team members experienced a threat to all fundamental psychological needs, while the dissent agents experienced threats to belonging and self-esteem. Most team members hated the person who played Devil’s Advocate. One person who played the Agent of Dissent role several times quoted, “When I enter the meetings, people give me a stare as if they are saying in their minds, “Here comes the party spoiler.” People perceived dissenters as someone who wanted to show their smartness to everyone in the room.
  • The Innovation Killer — Several companies still believe that some version of Devil’s Advocate is critical to fostering innovation. However, role-playing dissenters are innovation killers. They focus on the flaws and worst-case scenarios of the idea rather than building on the positives. Sometimes, their views are anchored in the past. We have to understand that most of the newly formed ideas will be vague, poorly defined, ugly, might seem wrong or not practicable, and may not have all the details. If somebody sees the concept at that stage, they might conclude that the idea is not worth pursuing. Ideas need time to grow. Unfortunately, by poking holes or finding flaws, assigned dissenters kill the concept in the ideation stage itself. They stop people from moving the ideas forward through iteration, prototyping, and testing.







Author -Boil The Ocean. Business Strategy Consultant, Design Thinker.,

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Shah Mohammed

Shah Mohammed

Author -Boil The Ocean. Business Strategy Consultant, Design Thinker.,

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