Thursday, June 2, 2011

Part 9 -- Departures From The Intelligence Cycle (Let's Kill The Intelligence Cycle)

Other authors have proposed, however, radically different versions of the intelligence process, overthrowing old notions in an attempt to more accurately describe how intelligence is done in the real world.  

The first of these attempts, by longtime academic and former CIA officer, Arthur Hulnick, was the Intelligence Matrix.  Hulnick believed that intelligence was better described in terms of a matrix (see image below).  For Hulnick there were three main activities, parts of which, in many cases, occurred at the same time.  These three “pillars” were collection, production, and support and services.  Hulnick's model, while capturing more of the functions of intelligence, does not seem to provide much guidance on how to actually do intelligence.

Peter Pirolli and Stuart Card of the Palo Alto Research Center also attempted to re-define the intelligence process (see image below).  This re-definition has gained some traction outside of the intelligence community.  While much more complex than the cycle and typically perceived as a departure from it, Pirolli and Card's sensemaking loop is still both very sequential and very circular -- with all the limits that implies.
Probably the most recent and most successful move away from the intelligence cycle, however, has been Robert Clark’s target-centric approach to intelligence analysis (see image below).  What makes Clark unique in many respects is that he is not merely attempting to describe the current intelligence process; he is attempting to examine how intelligence should be done.

Clark expressly rejects the intelligence cycle and advocates a more inclusive approach, one that includes all of the “stakeholders”, i.e. the individuals and organizations potentially affected by the intelligence produced.  Clark claims that, to include these stakeholders, “the cycle must be redefined, not for the convenience of implementation in a traditional hierarchy but so that the process can take full advantage of evolving information technology and handle complex problems.”

Clark calls this a “target-centric approach” because “the goal is to construct a shared picture of the target, from which all participants can extract the elements they need to do their jobs and to which all can contribute from their resources or knowledge.”  This approach does a very good job of describing a healthy relationship between the intelligence professional and the decisionmaker he or she supports.

This description of the way intelligence should work seems to fit well with at least some of the initiatives pursued by the US national security intelligence community.  The example of Intellipedia, discussed in a earlier post, seems particularly close to Clark’s vision of the way intelligence should work.  

What remains less clear is which came first.  Is Intellipedia a natural extension of Clark’s thinking or has Clark merely identified the value of a more inclusive, interactive, Intellipedia-like world?  Furthermore, beyond describing an ideal relationship between intelligence and decisionmakers, how does the intelligence product actually come about?  On this point, as with Hulnick, the model provides little guidance.

Next:  The New Intelligence Process

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've come to believe that a Wiki is the best representation of what Clark calls the target-centric approach. A Wiki used in this way is a picture of what is. As such, it has many valuable features and characteristics, but one thing it doesn't do is disseminate its findings. The wisdom may be there for all to see in that target picture, but it still must be read, like tea leaves.

Actually, I found the juxtaposition of Clark's target and Pirolli and Card's sensemaking loop quite illuminating. I suddenly realized that the sensemaking loop is precisely how I develop and share individual lessons from the Wiki target picture. Placing new info into the Wiki and collaborating with others on what it means in context of the target picture, then moving those conclusions out to others, is precisely what needs to be done.

The Wiki picture is a versatile tool but it remains passive. The intelligence cycle aspect requires that actionable intelligence emerge from the shoebox and reach those who need it.

We could challenge the original question. Perhaps we should have an "actionable intelligence cycle" and a "target knowledge cycle", or maybe a "threat awareness cycle"? Maybe "intelligence cycle" doesn't cut it anymore?