The Value of a Black Hat

Published: September 15, 2020

Many of my business partners and team members will tell you that one of my favorite roles to play is the black hat, or as some may know it, the devil’s advocate. Furthermore, I believe it is one of the most crucial roles in a team to help further drive success.

The black hat is someone who has an opposing view to an idea, shares his or her own experiences, or brings up contrary evidence. He will see any future risks involved prompting the team to come up with new or refined strategies to avoid them. The black hat will challenge a group or individual to process information on a deeper level, see and consider other angles of a challenge, reflect further on their own perspective(s), and be challenged to explore other solutions that were not thought of before.

One of the simplest ways to take on the role of the black hat is to ask questions, and ask a lot of them. Opt for thought provoking questions, rather than ones that only require a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Asking these types of questions encourages others to share their answers and viewpoints which helps further facilitate the conversation, thus coming up with better solutions in the end. 

It is important to understand, though, that this role is not designed to create chaos within the business or team, or question the credibility of others. The black hat should not aim to shoot down a proposed solution. Rather, the black hat should poke holes in the proposed solution, drive further exploration and conversation, and then once the group is in agreement on the outcome, the black hat can step down – or rather, take off the hat!

Although I will naturally volunteer to play the black hat, I have noticed the great influence that this has had on my team and also within my other businesses. The agents on my team and some of my other business partners have started to ‘put on’ their own black hats when working through problems or creating new businesses. This has resulted in tremendous growth not only in our overall team or business performance, but also in each team members’ professional skills.

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