Devil's advocate

Devil's advocate takes an independent  critical questioning stance on someone else's foresight work arguing the unpopular side of the case and assuming the most negative possible perspective.

Uses of the method

  • Asking "What could go wrong if the analysis is flawed"
  • Reviewing and critiquing others analysis 


  • Reduces the dangers of "Group think"


  • Reviewer(s) may play the game but not with conviction
  • Group think may be enhanced if not taken seriously

Steps to complete

  • Determine who will play Devil' advocate(s)
  • Advocate builds strongest possible objections using different starting points, assumptions and approaches or examines the strength of the evidence and process followed.
  • The advocate notes:

             - sources of uncertainty
             - flaws in the process
             - challengeable assumptions
             - incorrect diagnoses
             - evidence anomalies
             - critical information gaps
             - ill-considered external environmental factors
             - missing cultural considerations
             - misleading evidence deriving from deceptions

  • Capture your most exciting idea and biggest fear
  • Determine the fixed elements (almost certain hard trends) that will inform your strategic response: slow-changing phenomena e.g. demographic shifts, constrained situations e.g. resource limits, in the pipeline e.g. aging of baby boomers, inevitable collisions e.g. climate change arguments.
  • Capture critical variables i.e. uncertainties, soft trends and potential surprises. Both these and the fixed elements will be key to creating scenarios and examining potential future paradigm shifts.
  • Capture unique insight into new ways of seeing that can be utilized by the organization.
  • State alternative hypotheses drawn with different assumptions and judgments. 
  • Draw alternative conclusions to the original analysis. The original analysis may then modified as appropriate to strengthen its case or disprove its conclusions. Determine if more research is needed to cover newly arising knowledge gaps.
  • Consider what factors would likely change your mind through receipt of new information.
  • Determine which factors could surprise and alter your judgment and the direction of the outcome.
  • What conclusions can we draw from the exercise(s)?
    • How might the future be different?
    • How does A affect B?
    • What is likely to remain the same or change significantly?
    • What are the likely outcomes?
    • What and who will likely shape our future?
    • Where could we be most affected by change?
    • What might we do about it?
    • What don't we know that we need to know?
    • What should we do now, today?
    • Why do we care?
    • When should we aim to meet on this?

This method and your response can be shared with other members or kept private using the 'Privacy' field and through the 'Tag', 'Report' and 'Forum' functionalities. Use 'Tag' and/or 'Report' to aggregate your analyzes, or add a 'Forum' to ask others where they agree/disagree and encourage them to make their own analysis from their unique vantage point.

Click the 'Invite tab to send invitations to other members or non-members (colleagues, external experts etc.) to ask for their input. You can whether or not you want anonymous responses.  These can be viewed and exported within the Responses tab.

Further reference

Contact us
Even with all the advice and tools we have provided here starting a foresight project from scratch can be a daunting prospect to a beginner. Let us know if you need help with this method or want a group facilitation exercise or full project or program carrying out by us. We promise to leave behind more internal knowledgeable people who can expand your initiative for better organizational performance.

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Are there other enhancements or new methods you would like to see here? Let us know and we will do our best to respond with a solution quickly.

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