Spin Up Red Cells: What It Means

To best understand what “spinning up red cells” means, let’s use an example: Changing the way a large bureaucracy works is almost impossible. What you can do however is spin up red cells.

In this context, “to spin up red cells” refers to creating independent groups or teams (red cells) within the organization.

These groups are tasked with challenging existing processes, identifying vulnerabilities, and proposing innovations or modernizations.

This approach can help to foster a culture of continuous improvement and adaptability within bureaucratic systems, enabling them to better respond to changing conditions and emerging challenges.

The term “red cells” originally comes from military and security contexts, where a “red cell” is a team that takes on the role of an adversary to identify vulnerabilities and test defenses.

The term has since been adopted in other fields, including organizational management, to denote groups tasked with challenging existing assumptions and proposing innovative solutions.

The color red is traditionally associated with opposition or challenge, which is why it’s used in this context to signify a group that acts in a contrarian or adversarial manner to spark improvement and innovation.

The term “cell” in “red cell” implies a smaller, more independent, or specialized group within a larger organization, compared to a “red team” which could be larger or more integrated. The choice of “cell” can denote a degree of autonomy and specialized focus that might not be conveyed by the term “team.”

The differentiation between a “cell” and a “team” might help in emphasizing the unique, independent, and specialized nature of the group’s role in adversarial testing or innovative problem-solving.






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