ACH: The Route 91 Harvest Shooting

The following is an application of the Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH) to the Route 91 Harvest shooter case, the mass murder of 58 persons attending an open-air music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, on 1 October 2017. The case came to a dissatisfying close in early 2019 with investigators announcing a motive was notContinue reading “ACH: The Route 91 Harvest Shooting”

Gaining Audience Trust When Presenting Controversial Findings

The findings of intelligence assessments are occasionally controversial. This includes products released only for internal consumption, as well as those rare assessments that are disseminated to the broader public. Ideally, the paper is written apolitically, using dispassionate language, and with enough unequivocal support that even a contentious message is given due consideration. Yet, even reportsContinue reading “Gaining Audience Trust When Presenting Controversial Findings”

Robert Hanssen Spy Case Illustrates The Difficulty of Overcoming Mindsets

Major intelligence failures are usually caused by failures of analysis, not failures of collection. Relevant information is discounted, misinterpreted, ignored, rejected or overlooked because it fails to fit a prevailing mental model or mind-set. Richards J. Heuer, Psychology of Intelligence Analysis Focusing on a single scenario early in an analysis can lead to a mindsetContinue reading “Robert Hanssen Spy Case Illustrates The Difficulty of Overcoming Mindsets”

Standing Up To Pressure

If you’re faced with pressure about an analytical conclusion you’ve reached, it helps if you’ve based that conclusion on a strong analytical framework. If challenged, you can retrace the path that led you to your findings, and it will strengthen your case because structured techniques minimize bias and outside influence. Several years ago, I wasContinue reading “Standing Up To Pressure”

The Subject Matter Expert Versus The Diligent Researcher

As election 2016 came to its surprising conclusion, more than a few subject matter experts (SMEs) found egg on their faces. The results confirmed findings presented by political science writer Philip Tetlock in his book, Expert Political Judgment. At the risk of oversimplification, Dr. Tetlock argued that non-SMEs who apply critical thinking may have anContinue reading “The Subject Matter Expert Versus The Diligent Researcher”

Informal Versus Formal Problem Solving

This diagram shows the difference between informal and formal problem solving. You can see hypotheses and evidence are processed very differently. Take a look at the first triangle. Here, we begin to form a single explanation as soon as we encounter a data set or scenario. The “support” for it comes consciously and subconsciously, internallyContinue reading “Informal Versus Formal Problem Solving”