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A Time for Reflection

The January and February editions of Analytic Insider highlighted the first three of the five Habits of a Master Thinker:

  1. Know when to challenge key assumptions.
  2. Consider alternative explanations or hypotheses for all events.
  3. Look for inconsistent data that provides sufficient justification to quickly discard a candidate hypothesis.

Throughout the month of March, I encourage you to reflect on these good practices and try to incorporate them into your everyday work and life. Repetition will turn these techniques into habits, enabling you to be a Master Thinker. Next, try to adopt the fourth of our five habits . . .
Habit 4: Identify Key Drivers

The fourth of the five habits of the master thinker is asking at the outset what key drivers best explain what has occurred or will foretell what is about to happen. If the key drivers can be identified, the chances of surprise will be significantly decreased.

A practiced analyst should know how to vary the weights of these key drivers (either instinctively or by using such techniques as Multiple Scenarios Generation or Quadrant Crunching™) to generate a set of credible alternative scenarios that capture the range of possible outcomes. A Master Thinker will take this one step further, ensuring that he or she has generated a set of outcomes that represent both risks and opportunities for the policymaker.

Moreover, a Master Thinker will develop a list of indicators that satisfy the five characteristics of a good indicator:  Observable and Collectible, Valid, Reliable, Stable, and Unique. Uniqueness is often the most difficult criterion to satisfy and is best tested by using the Indicators Validator® or another validation system. For more information see Richards J. Heuer, Jr. and Randolph H. Pherson, Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis, 2nd Edition, CQ Press: Washington, DC, 2011.

Handbook of Analytical Tools & Techniques, 4th Edition

Are you looking to improve your analytic skills? Pherson Associates’ latest publication — Handbook of Analytic Tools & Techniques, 4th Edition, highlights 24 structured analytic techniques that will help you overcome mindsets, structure uncertainties, leverage your imagination, reduce the chance of surprise, and instill more rigor in your analysis.

The Handbook provides a definition of each technique, advice on when to use it, a description of how each technique adds value to the analysis, and a step-by-step description of the specific method involved.

It includes several new techniques, a list of cognitive biases and intuitive traps with definitions, and The Five Habits of the Master Thinker.

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Intelligence Communication in the Digital Era – How to Tell a Compelling Story Mary O’Sullivan

Many modern-day users of information have made the transition from the printed page to the web. Most consumers of intelligence products now access them electronically. This allows consumers to “pull” information which explains, defines, or depicts data that they are reading in a visual format.

Yet many producers still use static formats to create products which “push” analysis or raw intelligence to consumers. When planning a presentation, when and how should you incorporate graphics?

Modern-day drafters of any type of analysis – whether strategic, tactical, or even competitive business intelligence – must develop presentation tradecraft skills which focus on three elements:

  • How an intelligence product looks – not just what it says but the images that help convey the meaning of the story.
  • How a piece of intelligence comes to the user – where it fits in the continuous stream of information available.
  • How a piece of intelligence “unfolds” – how the “story” is put together, which includes placement of maps, graphics, and text layout.

Pherson Associates has developed a two-day  Presentation Tradecraft workshop to teach students both how to think visually and how to use visual images as part of a product from the start of a project rather than as an afterthought. In this course, students will learn:

  • The CREATE framework, which is the conceptual starting point for “user-driven” products.
  • The “User Experience” concept, which includes such themes as navigability, memory retention, efficiency, and satisfaction, as the driving themes behind the design of a web-based or multi-media
  • Storytelling to create a compelling narrative.
  • Storyboarding as a design tool.

This course will be available in Fall 2015.

Certificate Program

Our certificate courses are designed to improve the quality of analytic and critical thinking skills.


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