Why every organization needs a Devil’s Advocate

dev·il’s ad·vo·cate
a person who expresses a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of the opposing arguments.
I strongly believe this should be a standing position in all companies and organizations. It should be breaking news when a top DA steps down. Twitter should explode when there’s a corporate battle for the best.
Corporations know how important this is. Non-profit organizations, on the other hand, need a crash course in not jumping at the first thing you see. I was listening to an Adobe Max workshop a few years ago, the speaker was presenting on working with organizations. He made a comment at the end while answering questions that really stuck with me. He said, “organizations value information from the outside more than they do the inside, and that’s sad.” It immediately grabbed my attention because I had witnessed that same thing too many times to count from the organizations I’ve worked with. I thought it was just me, I was overjoyed to learn there were others out there that had experienced the same thing.
I have been told I don’t like someone because I questioned the process they were using. (And oh yeah, the process was wasting thousands of dollars). I’ve been told I was being too stringent because I was requiring a person to be a current member to get the member benefit. Was I asking too much? I’ve had ideas ignored until a man presented the same thing and is then told they are brilliant. But when I assume the role of devil’s advocate to give an idea a balanced overview I’m told, it’s not that important, it’ll be alright.
The devil’s advocate position should be valued. The person in that role is trying to look at an idea from every possible angle. To find the flaw while there is time to fix it. They shouldn’t be ignored, they should be encouraged. Most of all, they shouldn’t be dismissed for speaking out against incompetence. Their main goal is to protect the thing.
Thus endeth the rant. For now!

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