Avoid Summer Slump with This Hot Technique

August 2015 Volume 2 Issue 8

By Randy Pherson, CEO, Globalytica LLC

In August, the temperature may be rising, but productivity can be on the decline.

Don’t allow summer slump to affect your analysis. Keep your skill set sharp by practicing the fourth in our series of most popular Structured Analytic Techniques: Structured Brainstorming.

Why use Structured Brainstorming?

  • Brainstorming can expose you to a greater range of ideas and perspectives than while working alone, resulting in a better analytic product.
  • Brainstorming can help you overcome the traps of giving too much weight to first impressions, allowing first-hand information to have too much impact, and ignoring the absence of key information.

When to use Structured Brainstorming:

  • Use it at the beginning of a project to identify relevant variables; key driving forces; alternative hypotheses; key players; available evidence or sources; or potential solutions, scenarios or outcomes. For law enforcement, it can help identify potential suspects or avenues of investigation.
  • Use it later to pull yourselves and your team out of an analytic rut, brainstorm new investigative leads, or stimulate more creative thinking.

How to conduct a Structured Brainstorming session:

  • Distribute sticky notes and Sharpie-pens to your group (5-10 participants works best).
  • Have someone write the main topic or focal question on a board for everyone to see.
  • Tell each participant to write three to five-word responses on a sticky note and give it to the facilitator.
  • Read each response to the group and post them on the wall or board.
  • Point out as the notes are read out that new ideas will be generated as participants react to what they hear.
  • Select a subset of the participants to silently arrange the notes into affinity groups. (Depending on the number of participants, the complexity of the problem, and the number of “outliers”–
    ideas that do not fit into any obvious category–other subgroups can review and change the groupings).
  • Once the group has arranged the notes into groups of similar ideas, choose a word or phrase to describe each affinity group. Pay particular attention to outlier ideas.
  • Identify the potentially most useful ideas by having the facilitator establish up to five criteria for judging the value or importance of the ideas and score/rank the ideas. Alternately, give each participant ten votes and allocate them in any way they prefer (ten votes for one note or affinity group label, ten different notes, or any combination in between).
  • Assess the results and determine areas for further work or brainstorming. Set priorities and decide on a work plan for the next steps in the analysis.

More information about Structured Brainstorming, including the Eight Basic Rules of Effective Brainstorming, can be found in Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis (2nd Edition).

Additional Resource: Read “Breakthrough Thinking from Inside the Box,” Harvard Business Review by Kevin Coyne, Patricia Gorman Clifford, and Renée Dye.


Hot Off the Press!
Globalytica’s NEW Instructional Guide on Analysis

This month Pherson Associates published Analytic Production Guide for Managers of Intelligence and Business Analysts, the latest in a series of instructional guides on analysis. The 75-page Guide, written by Walter Voskian and Randolph H. Pherson, two former CIA managers of analysis, is a synthesis of their experiences and lessons learned in developing strong analytic units. The Guide also contains the thoughts and writings of other senior CIA managers and instructional tips from Agency trainers.

The Guide fills a longstanding need for a “how to” volume for first-line supervisors managing analysts, both within the private sector and across the intelligence community. Much of the management of analysis takes place at the first-line supervisor level. These first-line supervisors are closest to the two most important elements in analytic production: analysts and analysis.

The Guide discusses the first-line supervisors’ role in working with analysts, producers, collectors, clients, and experts. It discusses best practices, ways to implement them, missteps to avoid and why, and what steps to take instead. Also, the Guide examines the importance of first-line supervisors in exercising leadership and understanding the issues and process of intelligence analysis. It emphasizes the role of employing the “three Rs”–relevance, solid reasoning, and readable text–for managers in ensuring that analytic products achieve these goals. The Guide concludes by discussing how to give effective feedback, communicate up the line, review a draft, and understand the perspective of the consumer.


You Asked, We Listened!

Back by popular demand, we are pleased to offer a classroom version of Crack the Code-Diagnostic Structured Analytic Techniques this Fall!

What: Crack the Code-Diagnostic Structured Analytic Techniques Certificate Course (DSAT)
When: 22-24 September; 0900-1300 Daily
Where: Globalytica Training Facility in Reston, VA
Cost: $1,085
**Click Here to Register**

Our DSAT Course is designed for analysts interested in learning techniques to help uncover information gaps and inform future research design. DSAT provides students with a set of analytic tools
and techniques to help formulate and refine ideas about what has happened or is currently occurring. Students will:

  • Learn to identify the dynamics at play in an issue or problem.
  • Practice reframing issues to understand better how forces or elements might combine to generate different outcomes in the future.

For more information or to find out about group pricing, please contact us at: think@globalytica.com.

Globalytica