rent-a-challenger ©

The devil's advocate for hire

This case below is about renting a challenger for a large number of retail meetings in order to challenge what has been said.


Who's feeding the elephant in the room?

Occasionally you may have bumped into situations where clearly an elephant was in the room, being fed by all: all saw it, nobody mentioned it. No doubt it was there, big and hovering above the meeting table. Whatever you may have remembered from that meeting - it was the elephant for sure.

Usually, those kind of meetings are ineffective and there is more damage done than it shows at first sight. What may help is to have somebody present who is not a participating member of the meeting nor an observer.

That person has a simple but yet difficult task: to mention the elephant, which in itself is also a metaphor for questions not being asked. A person who checks if things are understood, who intervenes if people nod 'yes' but chances are high they have no clue what really was meant. A person asking for clarification if people use words that are as fashionable as multi-interpretable. A challenger who is present without slowing down the meeting, but with a clear mandate.

In a series of about six meetings and workshops with various large (international) retail companies, organized by a retail-consultancy firm and a university, I've had the honor to be that rented challenger. It was a great opportunity to test this kind of service on a larger scale. I'm glad it was appreciated and it went very well. The most difficult for me was to select what to let go and when to intervene. You simply cannot question everything.


Hire a critical thinker for your meetings to challenge what has been said. No additional chairperson but someone who asks the questions that weren’t asked, checks if things are understood, mentions any elephant in the room, challenges statements. Your meeting will be more effective and any repair afterwards minimised.

No additional chairperson, but a critical thinker.

Someone who checks for elephants in the room.

Your meetings will be effective and efficient.