I realize that I’ll never be that four star general Red Teaming the possible choices a major world power might make when it realizes it has lost the race to singularity and its nuclear arsenal no longer provides the strategic projection of force it once did, nor will I be the CEO of a multinational internet sale behemoth Red Teaming Europe’s demographic chances into a comprehensive future cooperate sales strategy, nevertheless I did enjoy Micah Zenko’s new book Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy.
Despite the subtitle of the book How To Succeed By Thinking Like The Enemy, Mr. Zenko explains how Red Teaming is essentially, focused alternative analysis directed towards a real world problem so that it may be more clearly understood and then solved with the best possible outcome.
In reading this book an aspect of the subject which really stood out to me was that no matter your position of authority or social status, humility and critical thinking often go hand in hand, and that pride and its companion arrogance are often rewarded by a special kind of blindness.
Red Team offered many historical examples of effective and ineffective red teaming exercises and the lessons to be learned from both. The history enthusiast and those who follow the evolution of military/corporate thought and strategy are sure to find the book especially enlightening.
Though clearly Mr. Zenko is a proponent of Red Teaming and its many beneficial outcomes, he also acknowledged the weaknesses and limits of the endeavor. In an effort to address the weaknesses and increase the effectiveness of the concept Mr. Zenko provides six guiding principles for Red Teaming. There are as follows:
1. The Boss Must Buy In
2. Outside and Objective, While Inside and Aware
3. Fearless Skeptics with Finesse
4. Have a Big Bag of Tricks
5. Be Willing to Hear Bad News and Act on It
6. Red Team Just Enough, But No More
I found Read Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy a stimulating read which will provide food for thought for many days to come.
On a more personal note, as I was reading this book over the past week I couldn’t help but share with my wife and children some of the fascinating historical examples of Red Teaming that Mr. Zenko wrote about in this book.
So a couple of nights ago we were all sitting around the dinner table discussing the day’s events and our plans for the coming week. I brought up the subject of the soon arrival of our new baby chicks and the necessity to complete a new home for them. I asked our five children if they had any suggestions on how to improve upon our existing design and my sixteen year old daughter gets a big smile on her face and responds, “So you mean we are going to Red Team the chicken coop?”
In closing I don’t know what other people will get out of Mr. Zenko’s book but it has offered the seven of us new perspective on problem solving and critical thinking, and who knows we might even get a better chicken coop out of it, that is if the our children can get their CEO’s to buy into the idea.
(A special thanks to William McCants for recommending Red Team.)
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Author: Micah Zenko
Book Title: Red Team: How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy
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Book Reviewed by: William Struse