Create your own challenge network

Published on Dec 16, 2019

It’s devil’s advocate, not criticism

Many people are familiar with Ray Dalio’s work culture at Bridgewater where every thought and decision is scrutinized by everyone else in the firm. Employees are required to questions each other’s beliefs.

On the surface, this sounds like a terrible work environment. Public criticism can be embarrassing and harsh.

But…

If the criticism is coming from a genuine place of wanting to help the other person become better, it can be hugely beneficial for both parties.

In fact, I think calling it criticism is misleading. At Bridgewater, employees are required to argue for the other side and challenge beliefs, even if they don’t personally believe in what they’re arguing. They’re playing devil’s advocate, and by thinking through all the angles as a team, they manage to operate efficiently.

I actually think this can lead to a healthy culture of teamwork and fully thinking things through. As long as people don’t turn it into a game of who’s right vs. who’s wrong, I’d also bet this leads to closer, more open relationships between employees—collaborating is a bonding experience.

A Ted Talk I watched by Adam Grant recently spiked my interest in wanting to apply these principals to my own life. Adam has a group of people he contacts a few times per year who act as his “challenge network.”

They have an agreement that he’ll send them his work and their job is to challenge everything. It doesn’t matter what their personal beliefs are, they’re playing the devil’s advocate.

I find this idea interesting because throughout my life constructive criticism has been one of the most helpful driving forces for success and happiness. It’s so easy to get going down a road, put the car on auto-pilot, and forget to question if this is even the correct road to be on.

And if you can manage to assemble a diverse challenge network, you’ll hear beliefs and arguments you would have never thought of on your own.

Maybe the feedback you get changes your beliefs, or maybe it helps you solidify a more concrete argument. Either way, you come out better on the other side.

I’ve decided to build my own challenge network. If you’re interested in joining, shoot me an email. And if you’re also interested in creating a challenge network, I’d be happy to participate.

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