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Guest Post: Leading with Intelligence

Posted By Meredith Wilson, AIRIP Board Member, Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Risk Intelligence Trade Association

This post is a guest post by AIRIP Board Member Meredith Wilson. Meredith is Founder and Principal at Emergent Risk International. The post can also be found on her website

An intelligence-led approach in business, government, and non-government organizations will almost always yield better outcomes than reactive strategies.   In simple logic: better research yields better outcomes. High quality intelligence research and analysis, however, is not as simple as that. And as such, building a professional intelligence capability is also not as simple. Here are some (of many) reasons why:

More information does not equal better information

We have more data at our fingertips than at any time in human history. However, this does not mean we always use it properly.   More than ever we can become a victim of our own bias and that of the people reporting and publishing information. That’s not just special interests groups or politically slanted publications we are talking about.  There are so many angles and reasons (not all of them nefarious) for people, organizations, governments, and businesses to publish information which is slanted in one direction or another that the ability to apply true investigative research, analysis, and critical thinking skills is imperative if we are to utilize all this data to make effective decisions.

Intelligence is only as good as the question asked and the questions we need to ask to answer that question

Intelligence professionals are trained to ask more questions.  Starting with the question that is being asked in the first place.  For example, when a business leader comes to them and asks: “How will ISIS impact the security of our operations in the Middle East?”  Is that even the right question to start with?

Perhaps the question is actually: “Will ISIS impact our operations in the Middle East (or perhaps we should narrow this to a more specific geographical area!)?  If so, how?”  After all, ISIS is but one of myriad players in the Middle East and the impact of their presence on the region goes well beyond security.  Or perhaps in this case, the company isn’t impacted at all by ISIS but is strongly impacted by organized criminals working in other parts of the region.  There are infinite other ways to ask the question (which could be the subject of its own blog post), but the point is, a good intelligence professional will first work to find the best question to yield higher quality information and analysis for better decision-making.

Intelligence professionals also ask questions of their sources: “Is this the whole story?” “What is their source of information?” “Could their source have a particular reason/angle for reporting this information in this manner?” “Is there an important key piece of information/ context missing from this story?” (And there always is.) These types of questions and others must be asked before forming an analytical judgment. Additionally, it’s imperative to seek out sources with opposing points of view. Intelligence professionals are trained to look for secondary and tertiary sources to verify information and  seek out expertise and human sources on the ground that can provide additional context.   Additionally, while being aware of reporting on major media outlets, intelligence leaders understand that these reports alone do not provide the context needed to provide an accurate judgment. More questions must be asked – and they need to be asked of sources with more context than your average AP stringer or cable news commentator.

Trained intelligence professionals are not uncomfortable with having their analytical judgments challenged

A good intelligence analyst understands that their judgment is not infallible no matter how well they know the subject matter.   They know that it is not uncommon for a young analyst – new to the field – to make a more accurate judgment than one who has spent years on the subject. This is because deep experience comes with its own biases. Intelligence professionals drive good decision making by providing analytical judgments that have been “stress tested.” That is, they’ve allowed other people to poke holes in their arguments, ask questions, and play devil’s advocate. When faced with a weak bottom-line judgment, intelligence professionals consider opposing views and adjust their analysis accordingly. To not do so puts their customer – the decision maker – at risk of poor decision-making based on faulty or incomplete information.

Trained intelligence professionals understand that we don’t know as much as we think we do and analysis without context is dangerous…

The information age and the speed of information has led us to believe we know more than we do. It has led us to believe we understand root causes of problems in other countries, and that we have a handle on how these cultures operate. The truth is, most of us don’t and we can’t unless we have walked the ground, smelled the smells, and experienced life in these places. This does not mean we cannot provide good analysis, but it does mean we need to work extra hard to seek out proper sources and context before providing our insights. Local media sources, primary language sources, multiple individuals on the ground, historical information, motives and methods of political actors, and information on cultural and social norms are just some of the inputs we require. We cannot overlay our own assumptions – about the world, about religion, about politics, about survival – on other cultures and come away with a solid analytical judgment. When we do this, what we come away with is flawed analysis that will encourage flawed decision-making.

High quality intelligence requires resisting pressure to provide intelligence and analysis that conforms to the decision maker’s worldview

… and decision-makers who know better…

Recent history has provided a few examples of policy makers who’ve pressured intelligence officials to provide intelligence analysis that conformed to their political or policy goals. While there is more to these stories than meets the eye – from sourcing failures to policy failures – this is an easy trap to fall into. In many organizations (business especially) decision makers have authority over the presence of an intelligence function within their organization. Thus, a professional intelligence function requires analysts with strong confidence in their capabilities and the ability to guard their analysis against the wrong kind of influence.  Just as importantly, it requires ethical decision-makers who understand the power and proper use of a professional intelligence function.


Meredith Wilson is the Founder of Emergent Risk International, a Dallas based risk intelligence and advisory firm specializing in strategy consulting, bespoke analysis, and training to address geopolitical opportunity and risk for multi-national companies and multi-lateral organizations. She is also an AIRIP Board Member.

Tags:  Information  Risk Intelligence 

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Posted By Rachel Bode | AIRIP CEO, Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Risk Intelligence Trade Association

Thank you for the overwhelming response to the AIRIP launch! We have had such a great time this week chatting with you by phone and e-mail about the many possibilities and promise for this organization. Many of you have signed up as members, and others have committed you and your teams to joining. It’s such a confirmation of the need for this organization and this work, and we are excited to get it started with you!

The great response to the organization means that we can move forward right away on finalizing the scope for the next phase of our website, which will include a members-only portal. Many of you have asked for things like a member directory, a discussion forum, and a library of program documents. It’s coming! We are excited to be able to move forward on these things.

We are also excited to meet each and every one of you – members and prospective members alike – at our Inaugural Event on November 17 in Washington D.C. Don’t forget to register and get your tickets soon! There will be breakfast, networking, and a great line-up of speakers. Tickets are free for those who become members by September 30, 2015.

Thank you again for the great welcome! We are so excited to take this step in formalizing the work of the risk intelligence profession.

Tags:  AIRIP  AIRIP News  Risk Intelligence Organization 

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Posted By Rachel Bode | AIRIP CEO, Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Introducing AIRIP

Hello! I’m so excited to share the beginnings of a brand new professional association with you. This has been a dream of mine for over five years, and an unexpected job circumstance left me with some time on my hands this spring to finally take this on. After a lot of research, conversations and thought, I’m really proud to introduce you to the Association of International Risk Intelligence Professionals (AIRIP).

After working in the U.S. federal government intelligence community, and then in the private sector in corporate security departments for two major global corporations, it was clear that there wasn’t a lot of support for intelligence analysts. It’s a lonely field sometimes – just an analyst and his or her sources – and without a strong personal network, the job can be overwhelming and potentially ineffective.

My peers in other corporate security, reputation management, and corporate strategy functions had all sorts of training, certifications, associations and association chapters for their respective fields. I knew there was tremendous work being done within the intelligence community and the private sector. However, due to the sensitive nature of the intelligence profession, the great work they were doing often went unacknowledged. I was aware that some of these risk intelligence professionals had created informal communities to support one another’s work, but the professional development, training, and career path were informal and murky.

The AIRIP Board and I think the time is right for a professional association to elevate Risk Intelligence as a formal career path for the professionals already in the field and the students that aspire to this field of work.

Our mission is to provide a professional association for risk intelligence analysts, with broad goals as follows:

  • to support and conduct training for risk intelligence professionals;
  • to support educational and informational activities — including conferences,webinars and a certification program — for the profession;
  • to provide mentoring and networking opportunities and connections;
  • to establish and uphold an ethics standard for the community;
  • to promote the common business interest of the risk intelligence community; and
  • to provide a forum for publication and discourse by thought leaders in the field.

Over the next few weeks and months, we hope to more formally launch AIRIP with an e-mail and web marketing campaign, outline plans for a fall conference in Washington D.C., publish our ethics standard for the risk intelligence community, introduce you to our leadership team, and start a published dialogue on this blog from experts in intelligence supporting various areas of organizational risk. You’ll also hear more in-depth about our goals outlined above, and hear first about our progress. We also, above all, aim to create awareness of the ability of risk intelligence analysts to facilitate and drive Intelligence leddecisions in business and organizational operations and policy. As time goes on, more and more of our content and benefits will be available only to members.

All this is done with the aim to professionalize careers in risk intelligence and elevate the work that you do in a way that will allow you to move forward and grow in your careers.

Please consider joining and/or donating to AIRIP! As an early member, you’ll be in on the ground floor. Your membership fee in 2015 will go toward initial growth and building our infrastructure. Membership benefits will roll out throughout 2015 and 2016.

I am really looking forward to leading this organization along with our board! Please do not hesitate to reach out via our contact form with ideas and feedback.

Rachel Bode | AIRIP CEO


Tags:  mission 

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