Innovator Series: An Analyst’s Perspective, Part 2

Welcome to the second round of the Innovator Series!  This compilation is designed to inspire and excite our thinking on innovation and creativity as it pertains to analysts (or those who do analysis but have a different title)  in law enforcement, the security sector and larger criminal justice enterprise.

Today, for the interview portion of the series, you will hear from RM, an intelligence analyst with 4 years of experience under her belt. Her primary focus has been on international terrorist organizations.

What does being an innovator mean to you?

Someone who not only introduces new ideas or methods, but is willing to take the chance implementing them. And even if they fail, be willing to admit failure and try something else.

What kind of disruptive (or innovative) thinking do you see in the intelligence and law enforcement realm? 

Disruptive: I think this goes back to the age-old problem of sworn versus civilian personnel. At least from my perspective (a civilian analyst working with sworn law enforcement), this issue still exists and can at times be crippling and take away from all the good work being done. I would argue that maybe on an individual level this has gotten better, but at an agency level it still exists.

SIDE NOTE: There is a great dissertation by Bridget Rose Nolan, a PhD student from the University of Pennsylvania that discusses barriers to information sharing among federal agencies and the circumstances that facilitate and discourage collaboration. It’s a great read, almost reads like a journal.

Innovative: I think we’ve come a long way with interacting with our consumers. And a lot of that has to do with social media and the amount of information available open-source. This has also allowed intelligence analysts to expand their networks/reach.

How do you see education playing a role in the future of intelligence analysis? 

 I think education in any field is important. And as cheesy as it sounds, it’s really through continuing education courses and training that we develop new models for other initiatives in analytical tradecraft.

It’s also important to know what resources are available to you, and for that matter which resources help you to do your job and which ones just get in the way. Sometime this is an issue with legacy/antiquated systems, or separate agencies using different systems that all do the same thing.

I think sometimes most of intelligence analyst curriculum, at least beyond initial introductory courses for new analysts, rest with individuals needs as opposed to more of a strategic view. In other words we should be training everyone to the same standard, and then allowing for specialization after.

And I don’t think I can walk away without saying that there needs to be training across generations. I find younger analysts push for new production lines (like podcasts instead of PDFs, or interactive infographics), while those less familiar with these technics shy away, but in fact both could complement each other.

Finally, with the right training, anyone can be an analyst, but the great analysts still works when their computer is shut off.

What are some ways that you think government, industry and individuals could collaborate to meet the future demands of intelligence analysis? (i.e. crowdsourced analytics) 

There are a TON of ways the larger IC can communicate! I feel like sometimes private sector analysts think government analysts only work with classified/sensitive material. Totally not the case! Besides the traditional analyst working groups or joint products, you could definitely use crowd source analytics (as you mentioned), but there is also gaming – or scenario based gaming – that could be used to improve tradecraft. Also, what about analyst roundtables/debates via podcasts? Or even expanding to include academics and graphic design artists to create infographics and sociospatial analysis? The possibilities are endless…

Now for some fun. What are four of your favorite things that you’d recommend readers check out?

1.) The International Spy Museum Podcasts: Great stuff! For example, in October they featured a two-part series about the “Life of a military Attaché in Moscow during the Coup and in the 1990s.” Amazing! Another one they featured was called, “A Western Spy among Terrorists in Yemen.” This one gave a lot of insight on the life of an HVE, aka, always looking for the next big thing.

2.) The London School of Economics – Public Lectures and Events Podcasts: Obviously more focused on economics, but great academic insight into current issues.

3.) Selected Wisdom: Clint Watts’ blog. Easy to read/conversational. Always on the crest of the wave with al-Qaida developments. One of my regular go-tos.

4.) War on the Rocks: Web Magazine that offers podcasts, book reviews, interviews, and commentary. Tries to look at the world through a “realist lens.”

5.) Also, I use pocket  to organize my thoughts/readings/podcasts/etc. It’s great for sharing information between people too!

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