Moving beyond conventional intelligence products
The Afghanistan Study Group has an interesting infographic about various politicians and pundits and where they stand on Afghanistan, in relation to each other and the degree to which they advocate escalating the conflict or withdrawing. It’s a clever use of shape color and position even if you might quibble with the actual positions of the various people.
If you run your cursor over the names of each person you’ll see a quote of which is supposed to be representative of their position. Recently I was speaking to an analyst about alternate ways to present information than just tired old intelligence assessments and bulletins and she asked me to give her examples. Of course, I choked under the pressure but this has potential for some tasks.
- Probably the most subversive is associated with something I encourage analysts to do all the time – Conduct an analysis of your own organization and customers. We may not want to admit it but court intrigues haven’t been relegated solely to King’s Landing. Knowing where people stand on issues (organizational, analytical, operational, etc) can be a valuable tool for finding allies, avoiding (or virtually ‘kneecapping’) opponents and crafting products to have the most impact and value.
- An evaluation of criminal/terrorist/extremist groups and ideologies. If threat is the intersection of capabilities and intent, why not figure out where everyone is on the intent spectrum rather than lumping them all together as ‘bad guys’ (another phrase that has loooong outlived its usefulness if it ever was useful).
- Evaluations of products. Most similar to the ASG product but examining the outlook/arguments/skew of various products on similar issues
The nice thing about this sort of graphic is that it could help protect you from confirmation bias if you were using this as a guide of sources for some analytical/research project. There’d be an investment of time initially to build this so I wouldn’t recommend it for a short term project but if you had something big going on it might be worth it. Then, to make sure you got a representative (if not wide) range of the most common ideas on a particular topic you could make sure your sources weren’t in one big clump on your map.