The technique is typically very suitable for the evaluation phase of an idea. It can be used in innovation workshops or in meetings where ideas and decisions are to be discussed together.
One participant or group takes on the role of the advocate diaboli on a given topic or idea and tries to convince the other participants or groups through its controversial argumentation. Afterwards, all participants discuss where they were convinced and where they were not, and why that might have been. The advocatus diaboli attitude is intended to develop different perspectives on a challenge. The participants should change points of view and also consciously change them. The planned project or the idea is deliberately discussed controversially.
This method has quite similarities with the 6 hats method of De Bono, but is much simpler knitted by only one attitude. If you want to bring in the positive side in a similarly simple way, you should try the PMI method.
Where does the term Advocatus Diaboli come from?
An Advocatus Diaboli is a person who deliberately represents an opposing position and thus often takes sides with the more critical side. Advocatus Diaboli (Latin for “devil’s advocate”) is an old expression and originally referred in the Roman Catholic Church to the person who had to collect and present arguments against the discussed personality in the procedure of beatification or canonization. The opponent was the Advocatus Angeli, who argued for beatification. In a broader sense, in the field of rhetoric, one refers to someone as an Advocatus Diaboli, who represents the position of the opposing side with his arguments without belonging to it himself. Frequently, one also finds the misnomer Advocatus Diabolus. The devil, who is meant here, would be called Diabolicus in Latin (so far to the history of the method).
When do I use the method?
Advocatus Diaboli is a method that should be used especially when there is a kind of peer pressure culture in the team. Particularly in the context of digital transformation, it is important to counteract a hasty consensus among a group when making project decisions. Advocatus Diaboli can assist with this. The method helps to uncover cognitive distortions, dysfunctional beliefs, as well as negative beliefs. In particular, when decisions are made in groups, various unintended group dynamics can occur. For example, more dominant or hierarchically higher-ranking individuals can more easily assert themselves without examining different alternatives.
Another phenomenon is the group’s need for harmony. However, consensus built on such a basis can be counterproductive. In such a culture, if someone has a different opinion, they are often judged as a complainer.
In order to prevent such situations, it makes sense to use Advocatus Diaboli in decision-making processes and also in finding solutions, because it helps to consider the ideas controversially. So to speak, the Advocatus Diaboli method can be classified as institutionalized criticism.
How do I use the method?
Below we describe in detail how Advocatus Diaboli can be used. In addition, there are experiences of experts from the use of methods and an assessment of how AI can help in the use of the method.