Sympathy for the Devil’s Advocate

Why you need an outsider to cut through the politics and find the best solution


Aug 2022

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By the 16th century, the Catholic church had fallen into the habit of making a saint of every Pope who passed away.

In retrospect, this isn’t surprising: the people voting for canonization were often friends of the recently deceased Pope, and thus had an emotional investment in seeing him recognized as a saint. But this Pope-to-Saint pipeline threatened to undermine the perceived value of sainthood. In order to ensure the canonization process retained legitimacy and didn’t simply degenerate into a popularity contest, Pope Sixtus V created the position of Promoter of the Faith.

Counterintuitively, the Promoter of the Faith’s job was to argue against canonization. Their mandate was to question the candidate’s virtue and fitness for canonization. They would search for un-saintly examples of character or conduct. They would cast doubt on the validity of their miracles. Essentially, they would do all they could to attack the evidence in favor of sainthood. Informally, this position came to be called “the devil’s advocate” — the origin of the idiomatic expression we still use.

Some Things Never Change…

I’m sure you are asking yourself, “Nice history lesson, but why are you bringing this up here?” Because it illustrates the first reason any organization faced with a tough decision might require an external, unbiased perspective.

Regardless of how people feel about corporate politics, like taxes, they exist and aren’t going anywhere. Organizations are made up of human beings, and humans form bonds with others. And while many will say that those bonds won’t interfere with business, it’s simply not possible. Innovation becomes stifled. The red tape mounts.

When faced with a tough decision, it’s imperative to examine the issue critically and without bias. That’s where an outside agency, like EX Squared, can help. We aren’t beholden to any of the internal forces that can pressure inside decision-makers — whether that be a dominating personality, hidden agenda or inflexible idea. Instead, as an external agency we are dedicated solely to the success of the project. We can cut through the politics and stay focused on solutions.

Having a neutral referee isn’t the only benefit to bringing in an outside perspective. A second — and perhaps even more important — reason is to escape the traps of tunnel vision and group-think. 

As an external agency, we work with many different organizations, and are exposed to a multitude of perspectives, ideas and real-world examples of how things go wrong. Not only can we cut through the stultifying politics, but we have experience with best practices and insight into the successes (and failures) of many other organizations. Outside agencies like EX Squared are experts in driving innovation — it’s our business.

Corporate Politics Are Human Nature

Every organization is saddled with politics. It’s natural. Organizations are made up of people, and people are prone to emotional reasoning, group-think, and tunnel-vision. When a project gets mired in office politics and red tape, it can be difficult to get the necessary distance to even identify the problem — much less find the best solution.

An agency like EX Squared is not beholden to those personal alliances, and has the experience to spot the real barriers to progress. Rather than getting bogged down in office politics or red tape, EX Squared is dedicated solely to the success of the project: we cut through the politics and stay focused on solutions. 

If any of this sounds familiar, and you find your project is impeded by these all-too-human issues, it’s time to bring on your own Devil’s Advocate. EX Squared will get your project moving and ensure the best and most successful digital outcomes.

Give us a shout. We’ll get your project moving.

EX Squared is a creative technology agency that creates digital products for real human beings.