Set up red team. Here’s why…

Set up red team. Here’s why…

I loved Aaron Dignan’s book, Brave New Work. A lot of leaders I speak to have trouble letting go, feeling like they are the only ones who can ‘do it right’ in their organisations (which relates to the ‘Trust’ and Expectation’ drivers I speak to in Emotional Overdraft). Interestingly, many leaders appear to believe that their teams are there doing the bare minimum, which contradicts the research that finds many people show up ready and wanting to do their best work.

In his book, Dignan offers up a transformative approach, the concept of establishing a ‘red team’ in your business. This idea, rooted in the principle of harnessing collective intelligence, offers your teams a fresh perspective on problem-solving and innovation. It’s a great way to step outside their daily ‘doing’ and for leaders to give them autonomy and freedom of thought – which in turn reduces their own emotional overdraft.

What is a ‘red team’?

The Concept of a ‘red team’ is essentially a group tasked with a singular, intriguing mission: to design a hypothetical competitor capable of outperforming or even obliterating the current organisation. This provocative approach serves not just as a thought experiment but as a powerful tool for unearthing inherent weaknesses, complacency, and organisational debt that often go unnoticed within the comfort zones of conventional operations.

Why It Works

The effectiveness of a red team lies in its ability to turn the mirror inward, challenging the status quo and encouraging a culture of continuous improvement. By simulating an external threat, it ignites a sense of urgency and creativity that might otherwise be stifled by everyday routines and hierarchical constraints. This strategy taps into the innate human drive for challenge and problem-solving, transforming employees from mere executors of tasks to proactive, engaged problem solvers.

Shifting Perspectives

Traditional organisational models often operate under a dim view of human nature, presupposing a general aversion to work and innovation unless strictly managed. This perspective fails to recognise that individuals thrive on challenge, engagement, and the opportunity to contribute meaningfully. In contrast, the red team approach aligns with a more evolved view of the workforce as inherently creative, capable, and eager to unlock their potential when given autonomy and trust.

Operational Evolution

Today’s organisations, many still entangled in century-old structures and processes, find themselves ill-equipped to navigate the rapid pace of change. The red team methodology addresses this disconnect by fostering a culture where innovation is not just encouraged but expected. It serves as an antidote to the bureaucratic quagmire that stifles agility and creativity, by empowering individuals to think like entrepreneurs within their roles.

The Impact on Leadership

For leaders, the introduction of a red team is a bold statement of trust in their people. It signals a departure from micromanagement and control, towards a more distributed model of leadership where ideas and solutions can emerge from any level within the organisation. This approach not only enhances problem-solving capabilities but also elevates employee engagement and ownership of outcomes.

The ‘red team’ concept offers leaders a proactive strategy to stay competitive. By embracing this model, organisations can leverage their greatest asset—the collective ingenuity of their people—to anticipate challenges, innovate solutions, and secure a resilient future. Empower your people to think critically and creatively, and they will lead your organisation to new heights of success.

Will you give it a go?



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