abductive reasoning, analysis, analysts, analytical, business, corporate, deductive reasoning, Domestic, experience, Foreign, inductive reasoning, Intelligence, International, long term, National, observation, observing, reasoning, respect, strategy, teams, work
NOTE: Remember to look at previous and more current postings for other topics.
To do a good to great job in Intelligence, whether it is for private/corporate business, or public – National/Domestic/Foreign reasons, those individuals, analysts, must do that job with more than just a desire to do a good to great job. There is the individual, the team, the management and other aspects of performing analysis (a small part of that is also enclosed).
Experienced / Mid-level / Junior
Permanent / Intern / Temps / Contractors
Managers / Supervisors / Executives
To do a good to great job, individuals must do so with an excellent team. It is ideally a team that wants to help each other learn, grow and do a great job whenever possible. It does not help that team when one or two of the members are dissatisfied / disgruntled / unhappy (and want to sabotage the team) or are flat out lazy. The team will not perform.
We have seen quite a few individuals over the years, those who believe they know everything on a topic simply because they have been working on it the longest. And these individuals will flatly reject anything you bring to the table, no matter if you do bring evidence supporting you.
Individuals must have a good to great management team. That management team must be one that is very willing to:
a – Engage with those team members learn, grow and excel
b – Set aside their own personal prejudices/biases (you know, race, gender, age, religion and/or even gender preferences) and look at and judge the team members on individual basis’s – what the character (integrity/ethics) are in that individual
— As I have written previously, integrity and ethics are two of the biggest pieces of the pie for everything I do in life. These are not small potatoes…
c – Listen to junior team members who might not know much yet but can possibly inject something new to the team, a new aspect from a different angle
d – Listen to mid-level or even other senior team members.
Just because the management team is in charge, that management team may not know all the answers and they should want to listen to more input to help round out whatever decision needs to be made. The management team, or individuals, should not be close minded or end up using their own personal filter all the time.
Those individuals performing any analysis must be willing and wanting to do a great job. Analysis cannot be performed in a half-way manner. Analysis also cannot be done in a vacuum without any other input or collaboration; it takes more than one to tangle in any analytical endeavor. Calling up and talking to someone else who might be a subject matter expert (SME) in a different area can go a long way to making a solidly successful analysis. And it should not matter whether the individual is a permanent employee, intern, temp or contractor – any or all of them have something to contribute to the team. Or the supervisor/manager/executive should be encouraging them to contribute.
An analyst must see the world through multiple lenses; one must be able to use considerable judgment in performing analytical efforts. One must use multiple reference points in putting the pieces together, or rather connecting the dots. An analyst must see the world through the culture they are working on, using as many cultural, social, business, diplomatic and even military cues as possible. The analyst should hopefully have a broad a background as possible to leverage the work they do.
When one is attempting to do analysis, it helps that one really look at whatever it is they are analyzing and not just superficial gloss overs… One has to observe what they are looking at, deeply – look at the way the subject moves and acts:
– a ship at sea, is it heavily laden – keel line riding high in the water or no; does it have its deck stacked high with containers or is there only one container on a large container ship; or looking for harbor in a port that cannot support a ship of that size
– a person working late in a highly sensitive environment – is that person allowed to do so; is that person leaving with a large briefcase or shoulder bag or back pack (are they bulging) or are they carrying nothing at all, visibly (they could be carrying a thumb drive or a thumb drive hidden in a pen or wrist watch (or even eye glass frames)); and is that person perspiring and acting furtive or trying to be deflective, continuously, when engaged in a conversation
– a truck seemingly overloaded with content it probably should not be transporting
Look for things that are incongruous to the surroundings, a no-brainer right? Look at the:
— Clothing someone is wearing – out of place, wrong seasonal wear (clothing and foot gear), tourist (foreigner);
— Wear or lack of wear for equipment/furniture/clothing;
— Cleanliness or lack of whatever it is you’re looking at;
— Way the person is acting – medical condition or no; is it a consistent issue or could it be something the person is trying to pull off as a medical condition…
Remember, take everything you see, read and hear with a grain of salt. Sometimes you cannot tell whether the speaker, talker, presenter has a specific bias or not.
Thinking – Reasoning & Analysis
Think. All analysts must do some thinking on their own. It has to be done. You cannot do any real work without doing some good, solid, sometimes deep and quality thinking. You have to work your way through whatever it is you’re working on, you must follow the logic, or lack of, in everything you work on.
You must use some valid reasoning as you do your thinking, such as some of the following:
– following the general all the way to the specific or particular conclusion – moving from a general statement(s) or premise(s) through a chain of logic steps to reach that conclusion – reaching it by linking a to b and then to c and / or d
== a state of more certainty… all grammar is difficult, and then deciding that punctuation is part of grammar which leads to the deduction that punctuation is difficult.
– going from particular (specific) to general principles, or even sweeping conclusions
== a probable state, given the evidence, but sometimes the evidence is false.. all the swans we’ve seen are white, therefore, all swans are white – or, Robert is a teacher. All teachers are nice. Therefore, it can be assumed that Robert is nice…
– going from a conclusion to a premise or, from observation to a hypothesis that accounts for the reliable data (observation) and seeks to explain relevant evidence…
== the lawn is wet. But if it rained last night, then it would be unsurprising that the lawn is wet. Therefore, by abductive reasoning, the possibility that it rained last night is reasonable
But at times, you should also be making inferences on the way to some of your conclusions. Sometimes, you will have enough knowledge/evidence to make some solid inferences for a strong case.
When you do, run it by others who have no stake in the game, someone who is unbiased to see what they say about your inferences. Sometimes this helps you as you do your analysis.
In addition to observation, you must learn to be a good to great listener. People notice it when you show that you are truly listening to them. The speakers feel appreciative that you are giving them duly noted attention and may quite possibly provide you with special, important information that others do not yet have – at least to the level of classification releasable and of course, to your own security clearance level.
When you pay attention to the party(s) speaking you also gain additional insights that others will miss because they might feel the topic is boring, not important enough or the speaker is boring and tune out the speaker. Sometimes, the topic or the speaker may be boring but you still may be able to glean something important out of that conversation / dialogue.
And for sure, never believe the speaker is ‘not’ important enough – that person is talking, either in front of you or up on the stage giving up their time to speak. And if you do believe that, you belittle the speaker and most of all, you belittle yourself with that kind of attitude.
When you really listen, engaging and asking questions, you can pick up more information. People doing the speaking like it, whenever possible, and will to the best of their ability, provide you with all the info you could want – now and in the future.
This is “active” listening and it has its rewards now and down the road – do not waste it. Even if people around you are not listening to you, don’t discount your work – save it, archive it but hold on to it because it may later come back that you were the one who was right and ‘your’ analysis was the correct path.
Note: if your work was blown off at some point because you were junior, or someone didn’t like you or your methods or your education – but it later turns out you were correct, “DO NOT” gloat about it. That is wrong and not the right way or the professional way to respond.
Tools & Resources
Try to use as many tools and resources you have at hand. Do ‘not’ rely solely on one or two resources, they could be slanted / biased and are skewing info for their own reasons. Look at multiple sources, even if you dislike them for their political stance, listen to and see what they have to offer and combine it with what you have heard at other outlets. Don’t discount sources – television, radio, papers or magazines just because you are prejudiced against them for things such as; what country it emanated from; the religion of the source(s); education background; gender and/or sexual preference; race.
Use visual and predictive analytical tools if possible, they aide in pulling in vast amounts of data and narrowing down what you are working on. Having tools with useable dashboards and excellent reporting capabilities will go a long way in your work.
Do not get sucked into filtering out possible avenues of workable info because what you filter, may be that nugget of gold you were looking for – turn your blinders off.
Once you do obtain info, you should be corroborating it – you cannot just use data unverified – that is a mistake, one that can truly affect your career at that and the next few organizations you work for. That is, until you vindicate yourself with superior work later on.
But note, in all the articles/writings you come across in your readings – be sure to attempt to see what the slant is, or rather what the bias is of that particular writer. Try to follow that writer’s logic in the writing or what that person is trying to say.
To be a great analyst in any endeavor, public / private, federal/state/contract employee, you must above all else – do not make something up for your reporting. Do not b.s. or beat about the bush with anyone. Tell your story using facts as much as possible and where you simply do not have enough, or any facts, say so. That is all there is. State that you do not have facts and that you are making inferences and educated guesses with all the supporting information you have. State to what level your confidence factor is in that inference.
No one likes being lied to. And ‘if’ you are being dishonest, it will reflect poorly on your team, your management, your firm and / or your division. But most of all, it will brand you and tarnish your reputation for years to come.
Be respectful in all your dealings with everyone at every stage of the game. It will pay dividends later on; it might be next week or it may be in several years but those who you show respect to will appreciate it, those who are honest enough to recognize it and respect you in turn, no matter what level your career is at.
Lastly, know your audience, your reader(s), your listener(s), as you make your case or your report. Some will like PowerPoint while others prefer Word or even only verbal reports. Then too, some will want dense details on PowerPoint slides while others will want sparse data on PowerPoint. Whichever the case, be sure you have backup info with you in case someone wants more info than depicted on the report.
And be sure to use powerful, descriptive images whenever possible.
Everything stated here is but the tip of an iceberg. There is more to doing a great analytical job but you will have to learn more on the job itself, with a surrounding full of patience (team, management, firm, organization) to help you grow in that job.