Challenge your decision making process with the Tenth Man Rule

 The Tenth Man Rule and how to apply it in business decisions - the Mobile Spoon

I saw World War Z the other day, and one specific quote captured my attention:

When asked, how come Israel was the only country in the world that built a wall to protect itself from a potential zombies attack, Mossad Chief answered: "Thanks to the Tenth Man Rule":

“If nine of us who get the same information arrived at the same conclusion, it’s the duty of the tenth man to disagree. No matter how improbable it may seem. The tenth man has to start thinking about the assumption that the other nine are wrong.”

If you ever found yourself in a disagreement with the rest of the execs, you know that being the lone objector can be an isolating and frustrating experience. 

At first, people will hear you out but over time they’ll run out of patience. 

The more the company invests in a certain direction, the harder it will be to abandon it, and the less it will be open to criticism (this bias is known as the Sunk Cost Fallacy).

And the worst part is, if you’re right, the company has already lost. 

Having a rule that forces the decision-makers to assign someone to be the "dissenting voice" responsible for taking a contrarian view and challenging the prevailing consensus is a great tool to battle groupthink bias - a phenomenon that exists even in the smartest and most experienced management teams. 

Here are some advantages of using "the tenth man rule": 
  1. It encourages critical thinking and ensures that all assumptions and potential risks are considered before making a decision. The person who takes a contrarian view will force the group to examine the decision from all angles without upsetting anyone - because that's his agreed role. 
  2. It reduces common groupthinkconfirmation biases, and authority biases that are happening even among experienced leadership teams. 
  3. It enhances creativity and encourages the group to think outside the box and consider different ideas.
  4. It increases accountability and eliminates "diffusion of responsibility" (whereby a person is less likely to take responsibility for action or inaction when other bystanders or witnesses are present).

“When you find yourself on the side of the majority, you should pause and reflect.” ― Mark Twain

So, next time your whole team agrees too quickly on something and you feel some risks are being overlooked - bring up the "Tenth Man Rule" as a mechanism to eliminate biases, encourage critical thinking, and improve the decision-making process. 

Related post: How to play devil's advocate without making everyone hate you

And remember: 
“The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone is likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been" ― Albert Einstein.

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