The Catholic Church used the term “devil’s advocate” to make sainthood decisions for centuries until 1983 when it was eliminated form the process, ending 400 years of tradition.  Since that time, the number of saints canonized has increased by 20 times.

In their book Decisive, authors Dan and Chip Heath have offered an alternative term to “devil’s advocate”, calling it “the promoter of faith”.  I prefer to use the word the “Challenger’.

Here’s how the Challenger can play a vital role in your meetings.  Designate a person to come prepared to give the alternative viewpoint that includes both hard and soft data.  The Challenger is given equal airtime to express their position and all other members must suspend judgment and ‘really’ listen to them.  The likelihood of making a better decision will improve significantly.

What does it take to make the Challenger an important part of your team?

  1. All team members recognize how important the Challenger role is to making high-quality team decisions.
  2. When the Challenger is speaking, other team members MUST deeply listen and suspend judgment.
  3. Rotate the Challenger role between team members.
  4. The Challenger treats the issue coldly and the people warmly.

Unfortunately, too many times, there is only ONE choice discussed in making a decision.  This greatly reduces the overall quality and can limit the team’s effectiveness.  It’s not easy to listen to your preferred choice being criticized; however, in the end, it could keep you from making a bad decision.

The Challenger can also be used with individual decisions.  Invite a loved one or friend to play the role and vigorously offer the ‘other’ position.  Such things as:

  • If I am exploring a new position and am ready to take it, the’ Challenger’ brings the opposite viewpoint on why it is beneficial not to accept it.
  • If I am ready to buy a new car, the ‘Challenger’ points out the reasons why this is not the best time to buy.

What about you?   If you are using the Challenger on your team, help us learn about your results by replying below.   LISTENING PAYS!


  1. I was the Challenger on a team meeting. Dismissed were questions asked to seek understanding. In addition, dismissed were suggestions attempted before I could even finish. Finally, out of frustration I said, “Please, let me complete my sentences without interrupting. Listen to what I have to say.” However, I was unsuccessful.

    Just two of my simple suggestions were:

    •Instead of rewriting and designing a PDF flyer to reformat the size, ask the originator of the flyer if h/she has it in another layout or if not, in Word.

    •Opposed to translating the flyer in to Spanish, again ask if the flyer is available in that language.

    I went on-line and made a phone call. The originator of the flyer had it available in Word. In addition, it was available in Spanish. Saved were time and money, an effective and efficient resolution. LISTENING DOES PAY!

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