PRIVATE - ACADEMIC PARTNERSHIP IN INTELLIGENCE ANALYSIS TRAINING: THE SOUTH AFRICAN EXPERIENCE
(Director 4Knowledge Analysis Solutions, Pretoria, South Africa)
Seeing intelligence analysis as a broader decision support function, rather than a narrow secret state function, opens the possibility that it can be taught, applied and investigated in all areas where sense has to be made of a myriad conflicting signals. There is a dire need for people all over the world, especially those that work in critical areas, to know how to deal with information, analyse it, synthesise, interpret and then present it so that better informed decisions can be made in the shortest time frame possible. South Africa’s demand for improved intelligence analysis to at least stay in the Knowledge Age race is similar to those facing most other countries in the world.
Intelligence analysis has proven methods, processes, tools and techniques, that can be applied to teach those outside the traditional intelligence fraternity how to deal with information. Opening oneself, and your discipline to this broader approach, has the added benefit that you discover common interests and approaches in other disciplines.
Using the “prismatic learning” metaphor of Robert Flood(1), your understanding of the problem is enriched when you deliberately and mindfully apply various other perspectives, thereby creating new questions and investigation possibilities. We use the metaphor of the prismatic characteristics of a diamond to teach this mindset to learners that each intelligence problem has various facets and perceptions that needs to reflect the complexity and uncertainty of a situation.
Much of the research done in other disciplines resonates with intelligence analysis and therefore intelligence analysis as a discipline can be enriched by the work already done in cognitive science, complexity science, naturalistic decision-making, knowledge management, philosophy, sense making, fuzzy logic IT tools etc. Some examples here are Alex and David Bennet(2) on the Intelligent Complex Adaptive organization, Weick and Sutcliffe (3) on decision-making in critical, stressful situations and Phil Williams (4) on application of complexity in terrorism.
This approach is practical in our training with people from different backgrounds such as analysts, researchers, investigators and their managers from defence intelligence, investigative units, security firms, policy consultants in government, mining companies, compliance units etc. It is fascinating to see the shared sense making when generic intelligence analysis processes are contextualised and new skills acquired that will assist them to deal with information, whatever their threat/intelligence or research intelligence problem might be.
Partnership with Stellenbosch University
The link between Intelligence analysis and Knowledge Dynamics and Decision-making is that intelligence organisations are knowledge organisations, with the analysts creating new or add value to existing knowledge every time they make sense of conflicting and uncertain information. Decision-making and strategic thinking is challenged by the complexity of causes and effects, direct intentions and systemic outcomes.
The Centre for Knowledge Dynamics and Decision-making at the University of Stellenbosch hosts various programmes aimed at preparing thought leaders in a world where thoughts and knowledge dictates. The Center’s trans-disciplinary approach aims to build bridges between different disciplines, such as decision making, knowledge management and intelligence analysis to create a new holistic study field that attempts to describe and manage the complex world we’re living in.
4Knowledge proposes a “learning roadmap” for analysts starting from the intelligence analysis course for beginners, progressing to the analytical thinking tools and techniques workshop, the report writing workshop, ending with a strategic intelligence and intelligence Management course presented in conjunction with the Intelligence Studies Centre. All these courses are similar to what is internationally available, with the added insights of what makes decision-support unique in our African context.
The partnership has obvious marketing benefits for the university as it illustrates its commitment to the professionalization of knowledge work. The courses are moderated and certified by the Centre after completion of assignments by the learners. We are currently investigating the possibility that these course become electives in a proposed Post Graduate Diploma in Decision-making that will be offered from 2010.
The main challenges ahead remain the demystifying of intelligence analysis and the accompanying education of all stakeholders that intelligence or information analysis is a critical skill that will enhance decision-making in all spheres.
1)Robert L, Flood, 1999. Rethinking the fifth discipline: learning within the unknowable.
2)Alex and David Bennet. 2004. Organizational survival in the New World: The Intelligent Complex Adaptive System.
3)Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe. 2001. Managing the Unexpected: Assuring High Performance in an Age of Complexity.
4)Phil Williams wrote various articles on this including 21st Century Challenges to Warning - The Rise of Non-State networked Threats (2006).