The relationship between the intelligence analyst and the consumer of intelligence is a peculiar one. As we’ve discussed many times before the human instinct for narrative is both a danger to that relationship but also a useful tool. It’s dangerous because both the analyst and the consumer will believe bad intelligence if it is presented in a good narrative. And it’s useful for the analyst to present intelligence in a narrative because the consumer’s brain can ingest it better. The relationship can also be tricky in other ways. Consumers of intelligence understandably usually feel in control of the intelligence cycle – they pay for it, or are in command of the intelligence function, they generate Requests for Intelligence and they feel that they can consider the intelligence and make the correct decisions as a result of it. That’s all good and in general terms the intelligence analyst accepts that relationship. But in dysfunctional cases perhaps the analyst only nominally accepts on the face of it, that relationship. Integral to a relationship like that is trust, and the consumer has to trust that his intelligence is unbiased, and objective. In most cases though they expect the analyst and his intelligence to be as unbiased and objective as themselves, anyway, and of course that’s different. The analyst will sometimes be aware of the power they have to influence important decision making. At its worst, that power could be used and used unhealthily. Only a close relationship can develop a trust that can manage that potential. At its very worst an analyst can present intelligence like a cod spiritualist, conducting cold reading. Consider this:
An analyst generally knows what themes excite and interest a consumer of intelligence. Unlike the spiritualist conman, they know from experience the peccadilloes , the preferences and the style of the consumer because they have built a relationship – this means that they know the target of their efforts. One of the techniques that cold readers use is to reflect the voice mannerisms, accents and styles of communication of their victims – and of course a good intelligence analyst does that too, presenting intelligence in the same formats as the consumer uses for other tasks. A good cold reader will elicit the help of the victim in the audience – and in some cases so to does could the intelligence analyst – “I often see things that don’t make much sense , I need your help in making sense, some of this will mean more to you than me…” A phrase that could be used by a spiritualist or an analyst.
An analyst too could, in theory, read the body language of the consumer of intelligence as a cold reader will look at the body language of a victim – are they leaning forward positively, or sitting back unimpressed. How many analysts will not try harder to present interesting intelligence if their consumer demonstrates a lack of interest?
One technique that is commonly used by cold readers but also long range weather forecasters, is the “rainbow ruse”. I have also seen it in intelligence analysis. This is one top tip for the consumer to look out for when judging the quality of the intelligence analysis he or she is given. The rainbow ruse is a technique where two separate outcomes are described in the same construct.
So a cold reader might say:
“I would say that you are mostly shy and quiet, but when the mood strikes you, you can easily become the centre of attention.”
A weather forecaster might say:
“The forecast for next month remains unsettled with a fair chance of periods of better weather.”
A military intelligence analyst might say:
“The enemy continues to seek opportunities to attack, but is also using this period to coordinate their logistics”
A business intelligence analyst might say:
“Company X is seeking to diversify and seek increases in sales in this vertical but is conscious of the need to constrain its costs.”
So beware of the rainbow ruse – your analyst might be trying to cover all the bases.