Just a few letters either way

August 13, 2012

As followers of and practitioners of competitive intelligence (CI), we are all very familiar with the term “analyst”. An analyst is one who is charged with deciphering the raw data, and making sense of it.

One dictionary indicates that analyst’s linguistic source is the French word, “analyste” which means –  are you ready – an analyst. So, just what is the CI analyst’s job? He or she must make sense of raw data and deliver intelligence (hopefully actionable) to the end user, the client.

And what is the reward for this invaluable service? The client takes the credit if the analysis produces a great decision, and may, but usually does not, share in the glory. And, what if there is a poor decision or an unwelcome analysis? Well, the analyst is the messenger, so they he or she (metaphorically) gets shot (or at least ignored).

So why am I dwelling on this? The reason is that I have just run across the word “annalist”. Now, this word, pronounced the same, has its origins in the Latin word for year, “annus”, as in year books. The annalist is thus one who, according to another dictionary, chronicles events, usually annually.

Now why am I still interested? Well, it seems that in Ireland, the annalist was not merely a recorder of events, but also interpreted them. I mean, is a mere recorder of an event likely to note that an attack was the first “treacherous turning” of one monarch against another? (Seumas MacManus, The Story of the Irish Race, rev. ed., 1996, p. 277). Sounds like, what, analysis, at least to me!

Now, to be fair, the Irish annalists were also poets (and aren’t all Irish?). According to MacManus, these annalists, also called scribes, underwent a “long arduous and specialized” course of study (not unlike today’s analysts). Are there more parallels? Yes

“Truth and accuracy were regarded as of paramount importance. ’To conceal the Truth of History’, ran one saying, ‘is the blackest of infamies’. The scribes [annalists] traveled throughout the whole country to verify their references and their facts.”

Very close, isn’t it? And how was their skilled labor regarded?

“The Annalists were held in the highest esteem, ranking next to the head of the clan; they fed at his table, and were supported by his bounty. No important public business was conducted without their presence and their directing influence.” (Ibid, p. 352)

Ok, so no parallel is` perfect.

But, maybe, just maybe, we are better being considered as annalists than as analysts.

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