Applying the 10th man doctrine to your Financial Planning

Applying the 10th man doctrine to your Financial PlanningI’m a sucker for a good zombie movie.

George Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead tops the list for most fans of the genre, but more recently we had the big screen adaptation of World War Z.

Brad Pitt stars as the retired UN investigator dispatched to find the cause of the disease, following several leads around the world.

When he ends up in Jerusalem, Israeli experts describe to him something they call the 10th man doctrine.

He is told something along the lines, “whenever nine people looking at the same information come to the same conclusion, it’s the tenth’s duty to disagree and actively look for evidence to the contrary.”

This devil’s advocate approach to strategic planning makes a lot of sense.

It’s not entirely fictional for the purpose of the movie; the Israeli army, following the Yom Kippur War of 1973, created a Red Team which the purpose of challenging the prevalent assumptions from intelligence bodies.

This devil’s advocate approach to strategic planning makes a lot of sense and could be an effective way to deal with the dreaded group-think.

As guest editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme after Christmas, Helena Morrissey (chairman of Newton Investment Management) warned that global elites had failed to learn lessons from the financial crisis – and risked ignoring the driving forces behind Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.

In the past few days we have heard Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane call the failure to predict the global financial crisis a “Michael Fish” moment for economists.

Following the EU Referendum last June, many economists have been accused of anti-Brexit groupthink.

The Bank of England denies it was politically motivated in its negative economic forecasts should the Leave side win the Referendum vote, but it certainly joined most other economists and institutions with such a gloomy outlook.

When everyone is telling you something is going to happen, it makes sense to consider the possibility of an alternative.

In the case of post-Brexit economic forecasts, most economists and institutions use identical modelling techniques. If the underlying assumptions are flawed, so will be the output.

Within your own Financial Planning, I would encourage you to consider a 10th man doctrine before making important decisions.

There is of course no guarantee that this approach will help you to avoid a black swan event, but it does at least get you thinking about all of the possibilities, rather than only those being promoted widely.


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About Martin Bamford

Martin Bamford is a Chartered Financial Planner, Certified Financial Planner (CFP) professional and published personal finance author. He works with elderly clients to provide advice on funding residential care fees, hosts the Informed Choice Podcast and is a keen ultra runner.
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