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Red Team summary

Micah Zenko

How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy

4 (65 ratings)
13 mins

Brief summary

Red Team by Micah Zenko explores the practice of red teaming; the art of testing one's own strategies and plans by having a designated "enemy" challenge them. It explores how to implement red teaming in businesses, governments, and the military to make better decisions and improve outcomes.

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    Red Team
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    Organizations can use red teams to uncover hidden problems, but only if they’re willing.

    As humans, we’ve got a rather peculiar blind spot for our own mistakes. This is why, for example, we get friends to proofread our essays in university. And it’s also why organizations hire red teams, groups of experts whose job it is to work out the weaknesses in a company’s strategies, structures and security measures.

    Though red teams can be incredibly effective, many leaders are reluctant to accept their help. Authoritarian figures or personalities don’t enjoy being contradicted and often refuse to enlist red teams in the first place. This was the case with the head of Federal Aviation Administration. It took a terrorist attack on a Pan-American Airway plane in 1988 with 270 fatalities before he decided to bring a red team into his regular operations to uncover security weaknesses.

    Red teams also require the right members in order to be effective. Red teamers are those who can think outside the box, and there are fewer of those people around than you might think. Psychologist Scott Eidelman demonstrated how we often fall victim to existence bias by assuming things are fine just the way they are.

    An excellent red teamer does not have this bias. Instead, they have an incredible eye for detail when it comes to working out what could be done better. Red teamers must, of course, be able to think like the enemy.

    CIA analyst Rodney Faraon even likens sharp red teamers to method actors capable of immersing themselves in the minds and identities of someone else. In the case of a red teamer, they’re becoming one with the enemy.

    Finally, organizations must ensure that red teams play an appropriate role in day-to-day life. Being assessed is stressful for both leaders and employees, so don’t let your red team run rife! Restrict them to where their expertise is needed to keep staff from feeling like they’re under constant surveillance.

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    What is Red Team about?

    Red Team (2015) gives insight into the military and security strategies that try to anticipate the adversary’s next move. Covering events from the capture of Osama bin Laden to mysterious break-ins operated through warehouse skylights, this book is a reminder of everyday vulnerability and what to do about it.

    Red Team Review

    Red Team (2015) explores the critical role of red teaming in decision-making and its applications in various fields. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Offers a comprehensive understanding of red teaming, providing practical insights and tips for implementation.
    • Explores real-life case studies of red teaming in action, demonstrating its effectiveness in problem-solving and risk assessment.
    • Encourages critical thinking and challenges conventional wisdom, making it a thought-provoking and engaging read.

    Best quote from Red Team

    When you hear best practices, run for your lives. The Titanic was built with best practices. – Colonel Gregory Fontenot, Director of the Red Team University, 2011

    —Micah Zenko
    example alt text

    Who should read Red Team?

    • Anyone interested in military tactics or history
    • People who want to learn how to think like their enemies in order to defeat them
    • Company leaders who want strong arguments for increasing cyber and facility security

    About the Author

    Micah Zenko is an expert on conflict prevention, US national security and military strategy. He works as a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. In 2010, he published his first book, Between Threats and War.

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    Red Team FAQs 

    What is the main message of Red Team?

    The main message of Red Team is the importance of critical thinking and strategic analysis.

    How long does it take to read Red Team?

    The reading time for Red Team varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Red Team a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Red Team is a compelling read for those interested in understanding the art of analysis. It provides valuable insights and practical strategies.

    Who is the author of Red Team?

    The author of Red Team is Micah Zenko.

    What to read after Red Team?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Red Team, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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