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To Share or Not to Share

Posted By Rachel Bode, Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Information Sharing as a Force Multiplier in Risk Intelligence Programs

Intelligence analysts in the private sector often function as a team of one. Information sharing groups have been a tremendous force multiplier for single analysts and small teams in the industry. So while teams of one intelligence analyst are less and less common, the need for information sharing and benchmarking remains. Governments have teams across agencies focusing on issues and sub-sets of issues, or whole countries down to very specific geographic areas. But an analyst in a private sector organization could be expected to produce analysis on macroeconomic impact of the Brexit one day, security conditions affecting facilities in a high threat security environment the next, and the reputation impact of a cyber breach the third.

Arian Avila, Director of Intelligence and Analysis for Bank of America’s Global Security team, and Corey Vitello, Senior Director of Global Safety and Security at Visa, explore Information Sharing in AIRIP’s first white paper.

  • Did you know there are example charters, and multiple group protocols to choose from?
  • What internal stakeholders should sign off on participation? Will you need to clear each information sharing exchange, or does clearance for participation in a group mean that any information can be shared over a period of time?
  • What will happen to information you share with other organizations? Will they protect your information?
  • What does the information sharing process look like?
  • How do you know what you can share outside your organization?
  • How do you, or can you, share with competitors?

Ms. Avila and Mr. Vitello outline these and other potential concerns for you to consider as you look at joining an information sharing group.


To Share or Not to Share      

 

AIRIP’s member portal has great information sharing capabilities, with discussion forums and common interest groups, as well as a knowledge library. There are also many informal information sharing groups within the private sector intelligence space. As a current and alumni member of these organizations, I can vouch for their trust and authenticity, as well as the value they have provided to my intelligence practice. I encourage you to read our white paper, and then consider using AIRIP as your information sharing platform, joining one of the other information sharing networks already in place, or starting your own. 

This White Paper is available to AIRIP Members via our member portal. To view the white paper, we invite you to Join AIRIP!

Tags:  AIRIP  AIRIP News  Information  Information Sharing  mission  Networking  Professional Standard  Risk Intelligence  White Paper 

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Building Resilience in Risk Intelligence

Posted By Rachel Bode, Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Meredith Wilson, Founder of Emergent Risk International , and AIRIP Board Member, with collaborative input from Rachel Bode, Founder of the Association for International Risk and Intelligence Professionals, recently published an article on LinkedIn. The post, Building Resilience in Risk Intelligence, is included here:

Building Resilience in Risk Intelligence 

Intelligence, when done well, should be a valued function that organizations think twice about before cutting head count – especially in a downturn.  This is demonstrated clearly in companies where risk intelligence has become a vital function that grows in spite of downsizing.  But it can go the other way too: functions that fail to demonstrate their strategic relevance are often the first to go (although they can also go for myriad unrelated reasons over which personnel may have no control at all). More than established professional functions with clear missions, risk intelligence professionals still need to consistently demonstrate their mission, value, and why they are a need-to-have, rather than a nice-to-have function. 
 
Here are a few thoughts on how to increase the resilience of your risk intelligence team (even if you are a team of one):
 
Be VERY smart on your business. 
 
Your team needs to know the business they are working in and align with its needs and priorities.  For example, risk intelligence professionals in a heavy commodities trading company need to take the necessary time to understand what that entails and how it affects the company’s risk profile.  If you work for a technology company with 20 different lines of business, over time, the team needs to understand each of those lines of business.  By not doing so, the team risks becoming seen as something that can be outsourced in a downturn.  After all, why pay for an in-house intelligence team if a contractor can provide roughly the same general analysis that doesn’t account for the specificity of the business? 
 
Be smart on what businesses are talking about.
 
In his annual letter to shareholders, Warren Buffet warned of the instability that a successful attack on the U.S. economy could have. He continues on to discuss the inability “for investors and corporations to shed this risk”. 
 
“There is, however, one clear, present and enduring danger to Berkshire against which Charlie and I are powerless. That threat to Berkshire is also the major threat our citizenry faces: a “successful” (as defined by the aggressor) cyber, biological, nuclear or chemical attack on the United States. That is a risk Berkshire shares with all of American business. ... Subsequently, we’ve had a few close calls but avoided catastrophic destruction. We can thank our government – and luck! – for this result.”
 
Analysts can highlight thought leadership of individuals like Warren Buffett in program justification, strategy development and analytical thought. Including references to relevant business leaders shows that you understand your business, its peers and competitors, and the current economy, bringing additional credibility to your work as a business advisor. To use Mr. Buffett’s words: businesses can never fully “shed the risk” of catastrophic events, but as a risk intelligence advisor with business credibility, risk intelligence becomes a key partner in understanding the breadth of risks, planning for strategies for mitigating loss and taking advantage of opportunities afforded by a rapidly changing global business environment. 
 
Take time to build a strategy.
 
Risk intelligence functions are often one-person teams with competing fires to address daily. Prolonged work like this for years, constantly reporting threats and bad news, can feel like progress and added value. Especially for those who like a very fast paced environment, this constant crisis mode activity seems like “what we should be doing.” In reality, colleagues may be wondering what it is we do all day. Many executives especially are well read, with tight leadership across their regions and businesses. They likely know the issue and business impact before an analyst can. Thus, no matter how many fires we put out, we need to do the deep thinking and deep work to add strategic value to our business.  That requires a strategy of your own.  What is the unique perspective and value add that your team brings to the business? How do you leverage that value?  How do you build in time for strategic work? How do you present analysis in a manner that is engaging and drives innovation (especially when we’re used to telling the bad news stories)? Warning executives about travel risks is important, but can easily be outsourced.  Demonstrating the strategic impact of long-term geopolitical issues and highlighting opportunities based on your unique knowledge of the company footprint overlaid with your risk intelligence subject matter expertise cannot be so easily replaced.
 
Drop the jargon.
 
Risk intelligence professionals, like most professionals, tend to have a certain vernacular that we use with our colleagues.  Often it is a combination of words utilized during our government service days, and words we’ve picked up from colleagues who do the same.  Within circles of like-minded professionals, this is fine.  In our writing and communication with our business partners, it is not.  To communicate in this manner risks looking like an outsider in your own company, and/or alienating people with scary sounding communications.  Think about ways to eliminate or greatly reduce the use of words like threat, violence, and other highly negative words in your writing and speech (you can still convey risk without overuse of these types of words).  Study other modes of communication to find a style that will work within your business. Evaluate your writing for too many phrases and hyperbolic words that imply alarmism.  All of these things increase the perception of risk intelligence as a barrier to business, instead of being a vital part of business growth (which it is!).
 
Build the profession.
 

Because it is still a young profession, there is still so much room for creativity and new approaches to our field.  It is also still in a nascent phase of development that requires more standards and structure to truly professionalize it.  Consider taking a committee or supporting role in helping to better develop the profession through organizations like the Association for International Risk and Intelligence Professionals (AIRIP), the Analyst Roundtables, or other organizations working to promote and professionalize the risk intelligence profession.  Write an article for LinkedIn or a professional risk management publication.  The more we build the field and create professional standards around what it means to be a risk intelligence professional, the better business will be able to understand the true power of our profession to build business resilience. 
 
Take a few steps back.
 
As hard as it can be to set aside the immediate; in order to do our jobs well, we sometimes need to take a few steps back and think about whether we are doing the job to the best of our ability.  Are we so busy answering the mail that we are leaving much of our talent and potential value add on the table?  Next time you have a breather, sit down and start working on that strategy.  Set aside two hours on your calendar every week to focus just on this – no emails, no phone calls, no scanning the news. What are your goals for strategic work?  Do they align with your company’s strategic priorities? How can you position your function to assist with this type of work?  How can you show thought leadership within your role?  Build bridges with your internal business partners, build knowledge of their roles, build a strategy for success and you will build resilience for your intelligence function and for your business.
 

    

 

Tags:  AIRIP  AIRIP News  Information  resilience  Risk Intelligence  Risk Intelligence Organization 

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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-headshot

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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