Last week I asked the Intelligence Analysts at IMSL what was the most important thing they had learned in their trade. I posted a number of replies, but a couple of the guys put even more effort in than I expected. I was deeply impressed by their thoughtful considerations on the subject. They deserve their own post. Here’s the first from Rob M:
The most important thing I have learned is that valuable analysis requires the analyst to possess a deep care for the given problem and its understanding. Less than 5% of the analysts I’ve met possess this quality, which in my opinion belies a childhood spent trying to make sense of emotionally complex situations, such as why they weren’t loved by a parent. Such childhood pastimes were either fundamental in the analyst’s brain development and/or continues to serve as a referred motivational stimulus for resolving complicated problems.
This ‘deep care’ naturally aligns the analyst’s character with the key Intelligence Principles:
Timely/Thorough – the ability to apply oneself maximally to the problem during the research period (even if that means working late / staying up all night). From a productivity perspective this trait trumps inefficiently applied natural- ‘talent’, or ‘intelligence’. To the caring analyst, extreme efforts to gain background knowledge, to gather data or apply analytical techniques will feel effortless, like ‘there is nothing they would rather be doing’. The caring analyst will invest in- and derive great satisfaction from the discovery or development of new tools and methods which offer even small efficiency or qualitative improvements to their workflow.
Integrity/Modesty/Intellectual Honesty – the caring analyst cares only for the truth of a problem and has limited interest in satisfying ego or climbing career ladders. They will be less vulnerable to bias, to politicization and more able to view a problem from different perspectives, such as that of the ‘enemy’ whose homeland has been occupied, or that of the ‘terrorist’ who is fighting for his and his family’s freedom. They will know that ‘good’ and ‘evil’ is subjective and something we are all capable of.
Accuracy – the caring analyst knows that a restless interest in obtaining high quality and clean data is required to produce the most insightful and accurate analysis. Less caring analysts will shirk responsibilities to work at the raw data level, considering it to be tedious or beneath them. As such they will miss the nuggets and trends identifiable only to those who are consistently tuned-in and well calibrated with their data streams.