Finding analysts

Within the community of intelligence educators, there is a discussion about how to establish who are really good analysts. That is, how do we test for it, interview for it, or something else?

With this in mind, I found a recent article in Smithsonian Online, “Elegant Mathematical Formulas Activate the Same Brain Region As Music And Art”[1], very interesting. The general thesis of the article is that certain portions of the brain are stimulated, in people with a mathematical bent, by viewing elegant mathematical equations, the same way the same region is stimulated by fine art for those of that bent.

What does it have to do with an analyst? Think of the statement by a Supreme Court justice, who when struggling to define hard-core pornography, is credited with saying “I know it when I see it”.

Is it possible that we can determine who is a good analyst only by seeing how well they respond to succeeding at or reviewing a good piece of analysis? I know that one thing that I always enjoy is the “gotcha” moment, that moment when a piece of data that you suspected was there came into your possession and enables you to complete the puzzle that is competitive intelligence analysis. Does that make me a good analyst?

Perhaps what we can do is to test potential analysts and see how happy they are or how much they enjoy completing a difficult analysis or reviewing the analysis of someone else.

Does all this mean that analysts are born and not trained? Maybe, to some degree.


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