07 February 2015

Frames of Mind: The Risk of Analytic Convergence...

Are there growing Operational Risks to our national security and private sector enterprises as our intelligence communities (IC) continues it's path of convergence?

We are using the tools and software to automate as much of the collection and the work flow as possible before the human "Grey Matter" is necessary to the final analysis. The fact that 80% of the time is spent on collection/searching and 20% on actual human processing, tells us that we have a long way to go.

Getting to the point where we are spending even more than half of the time doing actual human analysis is a long way off in to the future. Software systems are getting automated crawlers to pull more relevant OSINT into the "Big Data" bases for unstructured query, yet what about the front line observer who is the witness to an incident. They must process this by interfacing with a paper based report that is filled in with a #2 pencil or an electronic form on a PDA to check boxes and select categories that best describe the observed event that risk managers, watch commanders and operations directors need for more effective decision support.

It dawned on us again that perhaps the most vulnerable area of our entire mission is the actual analytical process. We have highlighted the "Analysis of Competing Hypotheses" (ACH) methodology in the past:
Use ACH when the judgment or decision is so important that you can't afford to be wrong. Use it to record and organize relevant evidence prior to making an analytical judgment or decision. Use it to identify and then question assumptions that may be driving your thinking, perhaps without realizing it. Use it when the evidence you are working with may be influenced by denial and deception. Use it when gut feelings are not good enough, and you need a more systematic approach that raises questions you had not thought of. Use it to prevent being surprised by an unforeseen outcome. Use it when an issue is particularly controversial and you want to highlight the precise sources of disagreement. Use it to maintain a record of how and why you reached your conclusion.
To our own demise, how much time are we teaching people how to create .csv files and excel spreadsheets so they can be imported into a link analysis chart or tool. Getting the correct, clean and accurate data into the tool is very important. Once the intel analysts take over and start the Who, What, When, Where exercises to gain a visual picture of the incidents, actors and cues and clues associated with the "Modus Operandi" (MO) people start to get way to excited about the possible outcomes. That is when it's time to stop, assess and use ACH.

Utilizing an analytic process that incorporates the use of tools and other aides to the human decision maker to increase accuracy is only prudent if you have the time to insure a decision without error. In the absence of time, human intelligence is the only answer. We should not under estimate the "Theory of Multiple Intelligences" put forth by Howard Gardner in his book Frames of Mind.

As you read this book from 1983 and begin to apply the history of what we have learned about human cognition and then use this in the context of an analytic process for intelligence communities, suddenly our current state of the IC and it's attempt to reform itself seems crystal clear. What if we organized the competencies of intelligence organizations more closely to the multiple intelligences that Gardner has been researching for multiple decades?

The people selected, trained and leveraged for their "Grey Matter" would be more closely aligned with what we know about the brain and the way that humans have evolved from a biological perspective in their cognitive capacities. Is it possible that we have the wrong people working in the wrong Intel agencies and the wrong roles?
  • Linguistic Intelligence
  • Musical Intelligence
  • Logical-Mathematical Intelligence
  • Spatial Intelligence
  • Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence
  • Personal Intelligence
Is it possible to develop an analytic process that puts the right people in the right sequence of the process so that the outcomes are closer to what we really are seeking?

The answer may lie on one of these pages. They may be the best place to start in order to understand what each of our IC entities is all about at this point in the intelligence analysis and outcomes evolution.

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