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Rethinking "Alternative Analysis" to Address Transnational Threats

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Understanding complex transnational issues, such as terrorism and weapons proliferation, requires an alternative analysis approach that is more an ongoing organizational process aimed at promoting mindfulness--continuous wariness of analytic failure--than a set of tools that analysts are encouraged to employ when needed. This means that Intelligence Community analytic organizations need to institutionalize sustained, collaborative efforts by analysts to question their judgments and underlying assumptions, employing both critical and creative modes of thought. For this approach to be effective, significant changes in the cultures and business processes of analytic organizations will be required. These are the key conclusions arising from a project undertaken by the CIAs Global Futures Partnership in the Sherman Kent School for Intelligence Analysis and the RAND Corporation to rethink alternative analysis--tools designed to help analysts and decision-makers employ rigorous self-review, question judgments, and explore alternative outcomes-to better address threats in the increasingly important realm of transnational issues. In a series of unclassified workshops, Intelligence Community analysts and analytic managers came together on a non-attribution basis with outside thinkers in a broad range of fields relevant to the analytic process, including cognitive psychology, psychiatry, organizational behavior, artificial intelligence, knowledge management, intelligence studies, and the foreign policy process. Through presentations and discussions among participants, the workshops sought to generate broad concepts about adapting alternative analysis to enhance warning of out-of-the-ordinary actions undertaken by non-state actors, epitomized in the September 11 attacks. What follows in this report are some of the more intriguing practical ideas that surfaced at the workshops, augmented with insights from related studies that elaborate these ideas.

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  • Administration and Management
  • Military Intelligence

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