The Devil's Advocate

December 06 2015
By: Terry L. Mathis

Do you have a person involved in your safety program who is always negative? Is he or she constantly looking for why or how everything will not work or why you shouldn't do it? Such devil's advocates are not unusual. In fact, sometimes they serve a valuable role in the decision process. A part of every decision should be looking for ways it could go wrong and making sure it does not. But the negative role should not be the sole role of one person.

In his book, The Six Thinking Hats, Dr. Edward DeBono proposes that everyone should be the devil's advocate for a period of time. If everyone has to play devil's advocate, the one member of the group will be less likely to feel the need to be so constantly negative, and the whole group can look on the dark side before making decisions. Asking decision makers to parallel their thoughts and brainstorming rather than having them assume different and conflicting roles can be extremely positive both for improving the decisions and the relationships within the group.

Next time a member of your team plays devil's advocate, everyone join in for a few minutes and explore the downside together before finalizing your plan.

Terry L. Mathis

Terry Mathis, Founder and retired CEO of ProAct Safety, has served as a consultant and advisor for top organizations the world over. A respected strategist and thought leader, Terry has authored five books, numerous articles, videos and blogs, and is known for his dynamic and engaging presentations. EHS Today has named him one of the '50 People Who Most Influenced EHS' four consecutive times. Business leaders and safety professionals seek Terry's practical insight and unique ability to introduce new perspectives that lead to real change.

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