Our friend the Devil’s Advocate.

Our friend the Devil’s Advocate.

Our friend the Devil’s Advocate is the first of Margaret Heffernan’s counterintuitive guidelines. It is useful conflict resolution to appoint a devil’s advocate.  Someone whose excellence is demonstrated by the quality of questions they asked.  Great questions include:

  • What are the best reasons not to do this?
  • Why are we here today?
  • What don’t we know that, if we did know, would change our decision?
  • What is wrong with our case?
  • If we had more money or time, what would we do?
  • Where do we want to be in 5-years?
  • If this were a documentary, what would be the narrative arc?

Generally, it’s important that different people play the role of devil’s advocate.  If it is always the same person, the group will tune them out and they will get burned out.  But it is the mediator’s role to ask these and other hard questions.  That is the only way we can achieve a useful settlement.

Margaret Heffernan (born 1955) is an international businesswoman and writer. She was born in Texas, raised in the Netherlands, educated at Cambridge University and settled in the UK near the city of Bath.

She is the author of five books: The Naked Truth: A Working Woman’s Manifesto about Business and What Really Matters, How She Does It (published in paperback as Women on Top), Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril, A Bigger Prize: Why Competition isn’t Everything and How We Do Better, and Beyond Measure – a short book commissioned by TED.

While Heffernan’s first two books focused on these issues as they impact women in the workplace, her overarching theme has been the need to recognize and release the talent that often lies buried inside organizations, under-valued and under-rewarded because it is unconventional. Heffernan’s voice is primarily one of critical challenge, taking little at face value and regularly questioning received wisdom.

Ken Strongman, MediatorAbout the Author: Ken Strongman (www.kpstrongman.com) has years of experience and a growing national reputation as a mediator and arbitrator.  He has successfully resolved more than a thousand disputes in the fields of construction defects, real estate, intellectual property, and employment.  He is also a Mediator and Arbitrator for FINRA.

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