July 2017 Making Your Gray Matter

The 10th Man and the West Wing

Several months ago a workshop participant mentioned an idea he saw in the movie “World War Z.” Since I hadn’t seen the movie, he told me about “The 10th Man” concept. The idea was supposedly borrowed from the Israeli army and stated that if nine people were unanimously in support of an idea, the tenth person was obligated to disagree. Additionally, this person had to search out evidence to support this contrarian view.

While the Israeli military doesn’t really have a 10th man doctrine, it does have something similar called the “Red Team.” The Red Team was formed in the 1970s after the Yom Kippur war. The team is, in effect, a devil’s advocate committee that can challenge even some of the highest ranking military officials.

The team is comprised of military officers, many of whom have academic backgrounds. The Red Team has unrestricted access to documents and intelligence and submits reports to senior level military officials. Because of it’s access and authority, the Red Team can challenge group think or decisions championed by a strong leader.

This is a concept I’ve seen elsewhere in Hollywood. On the show “West Wing” (one of my favorites), the Democratic administration hired a staunch Republican adversary to help them strengthen their plans and initiatives.

As you read through this article, I’ll bet you saw possibilities within your organization. Too often organizations “go along to get along” and plans aren’t as robust as they could be. As Karl Albrecht said, “Intelligent individuals, when assembled into an organization, tend toward collective stupidity. How can you form a Red Team or 10th man?