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45 MIN READ TIME

Advocatus Diaboli— the Devil’s Advocate

REVIEWED BY DAVID PRIESS

RECOGNIZE YOUR ASSUMPTIONS. Question them regularly. Don’t fall prey to mirror-imaging and related mindsets. Avoid cherry-picking to support your preferred hypothesis. Value evidence over belief.

Skeptics in diverse fields ranging from the hard sciences to intelligence analysis know these maxims well. But plenty of research has made it clear that only exceptional effort keeps us all from falling prey to the same troublesome mental traits; it’s just plain hard to move beyond mere recognition of critical thinking best practices to actually practicing them.

This becomes even more daunting when it comes to collective decision-making. After all, companies and government offices alike suffer not only from lapses of critical thinking by leaders and individual group members, but also from various biases inherent in hierarchical structures. The same organizational processes and cultural characteristics that facilitate smooth corporate operations tend to inhibit original and contrarian thinking.

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