Frequently asked questions.
WHAT IS RED TEAMING?
Red teaming is a systematic way of making critical and contrarian thinking part of the strategic planning process of any organization. It provides a robust set of tools designed to challenge your assumptions, expose hidden threats, identify missed opportunities, and stress-test your plans and strategies. These techniques help you think differently about your business and see how customers, competitors and other key constituencies will react to moves you make in the marketplace before you make them. It can also show you how to turn disruptive events to your advantage. Red teaming is how you stay relevant, keep ahead of your competition and cope with an increasingly uncertain world.
WHO DEVELOPED RED TEAMING?
Red teaming was developed primarily by the U.S. military and intelligence agencies in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the disastrous wars that followed them. Drawing on the latest research in cognitive psychology and human decision making, they developed a series of tools designed to challenge assumptions and examine problems from all sides. By making critical and contrarian thinking part of their planning processes, they hoped to avoid the sort of failures of imagination that were responsible for these missteps. This approach proved so successful that foreign military and intelligence organizations soon began developing their own red teaming programs. Businesses can benefit at least as much from this game-changing system. The most innovative and disruptive corporations already employ some of these techniques. Critical thinking is part of the DNA of companies such as Amazon and Google. The best venture capital firms, such as Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, use some of the same tools to vet potential investment targets. Why not make them part of your planning process today?
WHY DO I NEED RED TEAMING?
In today’s uncertain world, no company can afford to take anything for granted. Every day brings new competitors, new challenges — and new opportunities. The best companies know change is the only constant, so they constantly question their priorities and seek out ways to do what they do better. But as we all learned in elementary school, you can’t grade your own homework. If you really want to stress-test your strategies and plans, you need another set of eyes on them. A red team provides that. A red team is a group separate from your regularly planning staff that provides this sort of independent review. Red teaming is not a better planning process; it is a process that makes your plans better.
HOW DOES RED TEAMING WORK?
There are many different ways to make red teaming part of your organization’s planning process. You can create a standing or ad-hoc red team in house, or you can hire an outside facilitator to lead a red teaming review. Regardless of which approach you choose, red teaming uses an array of analytical, imaginative and contrarian techniques to challenge your planning assumptions, consider alternative perspectives, and examine the ways that failure could occur so that you can avoid it. While the specific approach will depend on the nature of the strategy, plan or problem being analyzed, all red teaming involves:
Questioning the unquestionable: All plans are based on assumptions; all assumptions are based on understanding; and as the latest research in cognitive psychology has revealed, our understanding is often flawed, or at best, incomplete. By challenging an organization’s assumptions, red teaming makes its plans better.
Thinking the unthinkable: Red teaming is about striving for the best while preparing for the worst. Understanding the ways in which a plan could fail allows companies to adjust their strategies proactively to address any weaknesses before they become problems and develop contingencies to deal with events outside their control.
Challenging everything: Companies fail when competitors figure out how to do what they do better. Why wait for that to happen? Red teaming teaches you how to subject your own business to the same sort of scrutiny that a rival would, allowing you to become one of the disruptors in your industry, rather than one of the disrupted.