We live in an era of transforming economies, simmering terrorism, transitioning institutions, and few historical analogues to guide us. As such, intelligence, in all its manifestations, is a matter of life and death, prosperity and poverty, reason and superstition, light and dark. It is our profession and our passion, and we must support it now, more than ever. We must come together for dialogue, education, and mutual support.
RECENT FAILURES OF INTELLIGENCE
Intelligence has never been more important, yet it ﬁnds itself on hard times. In the past few years, the word itself has suffered a number of scandals. At the government level, America’s national intelligence apparatus missed the weak signals leading up to the greatest attack on its soil since Pearl Harbor, if not 1812. Shortly following September 11, the architects of the war in Iraq used an incompetent reading of Iraq’s military capacity to justify a war that has proved immeasureably costly in blood and treasure.
In the private sector, nearly every purveyor of business analysis was caught ﬂatfooted throughout the 2000s, failing to understand or foresee the bursting of an economic bubble from which we suffer today. At the center of this catastrophe were ﬁnancial analysts who judged, using their own intelligence methdology, that a large group of ﬁnancial instruments were AAA-grade debt, despite being composed of nothing but fantasy and fraud. Instead of recognizing the failure of their intelligence, the cataclysmic (yet predictable) event is portrayed as an act of God, totally random, and business resumes as usual, plus or minus a few trillion in bailouts.
In all of these catastrophe’s, where was intelligence?
OUR VALUES MUST PREVAIL
Given these unfortunate developments, if the general public is skeptical when someone calls themselves an intelligence professional, it is probably not their fault. We have much to answer for. We have these failures to answer for. Despite these knocks, we cannot abandon intelligence, especially at this moment in history. Our role in society has never been so important. The changes that await us in the 21st century require foresight and decisive action, and only a rigorous methodology can provide it.
The values of intelligence are those that make a free society; a sound company; a competent government. Those values are:
• Open dialogue
• Diversity of opinion and expertise
These values are so critically important because they are the opposite of brute force, superstition, cult of personality, dogma, absolutism, violence and tyranny, where an elect few tell us what the world looks like. In a world guided by the values of intelligence, we see the world for what it is, and have the free will to make rational decisions. The values promised by intelligence are democracy itself. They link our profession directly to Voltaire’s Enlightenment. Those men and women of the Enlightenment fought, suffered and died for the triumph of science-based liberal democracy over absolutist theocracy. They grew up in a world where reality was decreed from on high, and if you disagreed, you were imprisoned or tortured until your opinions were judged to be acceptable. The Lumières were surrounded by the teachings of Newton, Lavoisier, Coulomb and hundreds of others, and envisioned a world of reason, scientiﬁc method, and progress away from the violent domination of tyrants. Their adoption of reason as a guiding value led directly to the American and French Revolutions, and has subsequently led representative government to triumph over domination almost everywhere on Earth.
Thus, we cannot give up on intelligence due to the recent failures of a few; it would be like giving up on freedom itself.
A PROPOSAL FOR AN “INTELLIGENCE COLLABORATIVE”
The skills and values we promise to the world’s organizations could not be of greater importance, and that is why we must continue to grow and thrive in spite of recent failures and misunderstanding of intelligence. We need a fraternity to unite us beyond the simple expediency of our jobs of the moment, our clients of the day. We need each other, now more than ever. We need to share our experiences and points of view, for mutual learning and support, for the public support of our discipline. Intelligence professionals from around the world, calling themselves a variety of titles and holding a wealth of different skills must come together to advance our shared discipline.
The intelligence profession requires a COLLABORATIVE with standards, priviliges and obligations akin to masons, carpenters, and especially physicians. There is currently no group that occupies this need for people with various skill sets and the common desire to help leaders of all kinds make more enlightened decisions. We must meet together for mutual learning and support, to advance the cause of our profession, but this cannot possibly happen under the roof of any group whose goal is anything other than the improvement of the profession itself, for the benefit of all.
A next-generation collaborative for intelligence professionals should do the following:
Bring together a wide range of professionals who are sensing, analyzing, understanding, and discussing the world around us. It is time for the walls to fall between business intelligence, competitive intelligence, marketing, strategy, librarians, etc. We should bring together a great wealth of diverse views on the same goals. We can focus on professionalism and not dogma. We can learn from each other and support each other.
Educate aspiring professionals in the state of the art of the discipline. A collaborative can select the best original research and training for professionals in the intelligence ﬁeld, without a proﬁt motive as a corrupting inﬂuence.
Improve the public understanding of intelligence. A collaborative should present a coherent view of what intelligence is, how it is practiced by the preeminent professionals in a variety of ﬁelds, and why every organization should understand and use the skills of professional intelligence. This way, some leaders cannot abuse intelligence, confusing it in the mind of the public for the dogmatic absolutism it really is.
There are variety of techniques that will make this possible. Modern information technology can unite us with minimal cost. Bureaucratic overhead and expense can be kept to a minimum. Dialogue and openness can take the place of central control and secrecy. We can all work together to support the ﬁeld, include the world in our dialogue, and evolve our shared work as information professionals.
We can then focus our energy on improving the world as a whole.