Tradecraft Primer

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  • Topic: Null hypothesis, Analytic philosophy, Analysis of Competing Hypotheses
  • Pages : 49 (13300 words )
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  • Published : April 16, 2013
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A Tradecraft Primer: Structured Analytic Techniques for Improving Intelligence Analysis

Prepared by the US Government

March 2009

This primer highlights structured analytic techniques—some widely used in the private sector and academia, some unique to the intelligence profession. It is not a comprehensive overview of how intelligence officers conduct analysis. Rather, the primer highlights how structured analytic techniques can help one challenge judgments, identify mental mindsets, stimulate creativity, and manage uncertainty. In short, incorporating regular use of techniques such as these can enable one to structure thinking for wrestling with difficult questions.

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Introduction ................................................................................................................. 1 How To Use These Techniques .................................................................................. 5 Diagnostic Techniques ................................................................................................ 7 Key Assumptions Check ..................................................................................... 7 Quality of Information Check ............................................................................. 10 Indicators or Signposts of Change .................................................................... 12 Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH) ....................................................... 14 Contrarian Techniques ............................................................................................... 17 Devil’s Advocacy ................................................................................................ 17 Team A/Team B ................................................................................................. 19 High-Impact/Low-Probability Analysis ............................................................... 22 “What If?” Analysis ............................................................................................. 24 Imaginative Thinking Techniques .............................................................................. 27 Brainstorming ..................................................................................................... 27 Outside-In Thinking ............................................................................................ 30 Red Team Analysis ............................................................................................. 31 Alternative Futures Analysis ............................................................................... 34 Strategies for Using Structured Analytic Techniques ................................................ 38 Selective Bibliography ............................................................................................... 40

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THE “MIND-SET” CHALLENGE Using the analytic techniques contained in this primer will assist analysts in dealing with the perennial problems of intelligence: the complexity of international developments, incomplete and ambiguous information, and the inherent limitations of the human mind. Understanding the intentions and capabilities of adversaries and other foreign actors is challenging, especially when either or both are concealed. Moreover, transnational threats today pose even greater complexity, in that they involve multiple actors—including nonstate entities—that can adapt and transform themselves faster than those who seek to monitor and contain them. Finally, globalization has increased the diversity of outcomes when complex, interactive systems such as financial flows, regional economies or the international system as a whole are in flux.2 The first hurdle for analysts is identifying the relevant and diagnostic information from the increasing volume of ambiguous and contradictory...
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