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Red Team Summary

5 min read ⌚ 

Red Team SummaryHow to Succeed By Thinking Like the Enemy

Sometimes, we are blind to our weaknesses.

Such is the case in life – and in business.

In our summary of “Red Team,” we will offer you a way to solve this problem. The title is self-explanatory: the solution lies in employing red teams consisted of “devil’s advocates” which will open your eyes to your corporate strategy issues.

How and why should you adopt this approach?

Read on to find out.

Who Should Read “Red Team”? and Why?

In “Red Team,” Micah Zenko, a national security expert and a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that many executives and managers are unable to assess their corporate strategies accurately. He explains that most of the time, they remain blind to rival perspectives, which makes them vulnerable.  

To solve this widespread problem, he proposes using a “red team.”

A “red team” is a group of “devil’s advocates” which tries to adopt the competitors’ way of thinking and find weak spots in the corporate strategy, defenses, and performance.

Micah Zenko presents a history of using red teams during the hunt for Osama bin Laden and gives a tour of the US Army’s University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies.

Furthermore, he offers some valuable advice on using red teams in your business and adapting the approach to suit your corporate needs.

We recommend “Red Team” to marketing managers, security professionals, information-technology experts, strategists, and of course, senior executives.

About Micah Zenko

Micah ZenkoMicah Zenko has a history of high-profile jobs: the Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the Congressional Research Service, the Brookings Institution and the State Department’s Office of Policy Planning. He is currently a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

He writes for several papers among which the Washington Post, The New York Times and Foreign Affairs. Additionally, his national security column is available on ForeignPolicy.com.

“Red Team Summary”

When intelligent officers plan a critical operation, they frequently assemble a group of “devil’s advocates ” to attack their procedure mercilessly.

This group is called “red team,” and it serves to test the plan for shortcomings, runs a range of simulations, and brainstorms ways and reasons because of which the arrangement may fizzle.

It takes a gander at the strategy from a rival’s point of view and predicts how an adversary would react.

At the point when a red team approves an arrangement, leaders can be sure that the plan is sound.

The private sector is progressively adopting red-team assessment strategies.

What is the upside of adopting a red-team in your business?

Organizations that adjust such red-team procedures as simulations can challenge assumptions, spark imagination, alleviate “cognitive biases,” and limit the homogenizing, accommodating power of mindless compliance.

Members of institutions fail at evaluating their strategies and processes. As an insider, you observe your operations through a filter of biases. These unconscious thought patterns or heuristics include:

    • “Confirmation bias.”
    • “Mirror imaging.”
    • “Existence bias.”
  • “Organizational bias.”

A red team tries to limit such routine patterns of thoughts and responses.

The procedure can be a basic as a specially appointed internal brainstorming team utilizing freeing structures, which are strategies to support creative reasoning.

Such trial interactions can start to motivate brainstorming sessions. By using “Four Ways of Seeing,” red-teams have different roles, including likely enemies, and build a matrix showing the corporate culture, “social system, power balances, historical narrative, and economies.”

A red-team disturbance may include utilizing outside experts to lead business “war games” or employing “white-hat” programmers who break into an organization’s computer network.


Because these activities look for and analyze weaknesses in associations, their security systems, and strategies.

Key Lessons from “Red Team”:

1.      Red-Team Techniques
2.      Getting it Right
3.      “Mini-Red-Teamers”

Red-Team Techniques

Businesses have started using red-team techniques, although not as much as the military and intelligence communities.

Many enterprises do red-team exercises using their available staff. Scenario planning, in which you envision a goal and think of the steps to achieve it, is a standard technique.

In any case, regardless of the industry or whether the arena is public or private, red teams work following three fundamental techniques:

  • Simulations

Regardless of what kind of organization you are in, you can anticipate your competitors’ moves by using simulations.

  • “Vulnerability probes.”

Members of red teams can adopt the ac of hackers, spies or even thieves to test if a company is secure enough against people that try to infiltrate it.

  • “Alternative analysis.”

Alternative analysis like what ifs or structured brainstorming should be used to produce different perspectives.

Getting It Right

There is no exact template of best practices that apply to every red-team activity.

That is because red-teams’ best friends are flexibility and unpredictability. They customize each activity to align with an organization’s values, goals, and cultures.

Most successful red-team exercises have six things in common:

    • Show that the boss supports the team
    • Clarify the team’s position
    • Involve the right mix of people
    • Team members are flexible
    • The boss can handle bad news
  • Schedule the right amount of red teaming


The most significant obstacle to broader adoption of red-teams across organizations is executive resistance.

Many executives believe that they can get the same or similar results as they would with red-teams if they encourage their employees to share their opinions and identify emerging issues.

However, not all workers have the time or expertise to diagnose specific problems. Also, many employees are not comfortable with telling their bosses about issues. In fact, most of them avoid making disturbances.

Red-teams have time authority and expertise. In other words, they have everything they need to diagnose problems and offer advice. They have time, power and knowledge.

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“Red Team” Quotes

A habitual line of action constitutes a habitual line of thought and gives the point of view from which facts and events are apprehended and reduced to a body of knowledge. Click To Tweet Over a century ago, the brilliant economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen illustrated how our minds become shaped and narrowed by our daily occupations. Click To Tweet These unconscious motivations on decision-making under uncertain conditions make it inherently difficult to evaluate one’s own judgments and actions. Click To Tweet People who perform the worst on pop quizzes also have the widest variance between how they thought they performed and the actual score that they earned. Click To Tweet Organizations tend to be poor judges of their own performance, and are often blind to shortcomings and pitfalls. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

In “Red Team,” Micah Zenko gives clear descriptions of the red teams and their strategies and offers wise and useful suggestions. Sure, the writing can be dry at times, but Zenko’s stories revolving around counterterrorism operations, computer hacking and war games are compelling enough to keep your attention.

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