Discover red teaming: the game-changing approach that will keep your business ahead of the competition

Do you want to be able to plan better, compete more effectively, innovate more proactively and make your business one of the disruptors in your industry, rather than one of the disrupted?

If this sounds like you, it’s time to create a red team.

red teaming

Red teaming is a new form of critical thinking, derived from the military who use it to think like the enemy to protect themselves against potential threats. A red team strategy allows a business to stress-test ideas, think like competitors and flush out hidden threats. Red teaming tools and techniques can be used to test anything from a new product strategy to a merger proposal to a business plan.

Organisations and teams of any size can use red teaming to:

  • Think differently about your business
  • Figure out ways to do what you do better
  • Avoid costly mistakes
  • Better understand your customers and your competitors
  • Challenge your assumptions (and make them stronger)
  • Identify unseen threats
  • Identify the unintended consequences of your actions
  • Understand how your plans could fail
  • Take advantage of opportunities you did not even know were there.



Red teaming can be conducted formally or informally. It can be done by members of a company’s senior leadership team, an ad-hoc committee made up of staff members selected for their critical thinking skills, or by a dedicated red team whose only job is to provide a fresh set of eyes to examine the organisation’s strategies and plans. It can be led by an in-house expert or an outside facilitator.

Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages; choosing the right model depends on what your company, organisation, division or group hopes to gain from red teaming, as well as the resources it is willing to devote to it.


Regardless of which model you choose, your red team must have the freedom to speak truth to power and know that it is being taken seriously. Ideally, a red team should report to the CEO. At the very least, the red team should report to the head of the division or group responsible for the strategy or plan under review. Whoever your red team reports to, it should be someone with the authority to act upon the red team’s recommendations, or the ability to present those recommendations to someone who can.

Red teaming can be costly in terms of time and resources, so it is important to ensure that your red team is set up in such a way that it can actually make a difference in your organization.


Selecting the right people to serve on your red team will be critical to its success.

The optimum size for a red team is between five and eleven people. A group can red team with fewer people, but the diversity of perspectives will be more limited. A group can red team with more people, but it becomes harder to remain focused and on task.

It is essential to include men and women with good analytical and critical thinking skills, close attention to detail and the ability to think outside the box. They need to have the confidence and assurance to challenge the status quo, while being aware enough to recognize their own biases and limitations. And they should be intellectually honest, and able to resist the pressures of organizational politics.


Picking the right person to serve as the team leader is critical when assembling a red team. The red team leader will serve as the conduit between the red team and senior leadership, so that person must possess excellent management and communications skills. The red team leader needs to be someone who is strong enough, confident enough and secure enough in his or her position to speak truth to power, to insist on the data that the red team needs to function and to keep its members on track, on point and on schedule.


Ideally, red teaming should begin after a plan has been created, but before it has been approved, while there is still time to modify it. If you begin red teaming too early, you will interfere with the regular planning process and run the risk of ending up with no plan at all. If you start red teaming after your organization’s senior leadership has already signed off on a plan, it may be difficult, or even impossible, to revise it.

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