10 Commandments for DIYers

September 13, 2016

In 2007, the CIA released a paper to the public title “Fifteen Axioms for Intelligence Analysts”[1]. Taking this as an inspiration, I would like to propose my own 10 Commandments, ok, Suggestions, for DIYers. The reason I did not just repost this is that (a) I put a link to it in the footnote, and (b) it dealt with governmental analysts, not DIYers, who are in a very different environment, with very different skills, and needs.

Here goes:

  1. Always know what you are seeking — and why. In other words, what can you do, or decide, with the CI that you cannot do or decide on now? If it is not actionable, it is not CI.
  2. Aggressively seek out the data that you need if you think you need it to complete your analysis. Who is to say that you are wrong about that? If you got that data, and found it did not help, next time you will do even better and be more efficient.
  3. Network, network, network. 80% or more of what you need is probably in the hands or minds of your associates in your own firm. The next 10% may be found in your own network. You DO have a network, don’t you? Nurture it.
  4. Have confidence in your own analysis and develop confidence in your judgments based on that analysis. If you do not have confidence, who else will? If you have confidence, others will see that and respond positively.
  5. Do not be afraid of being wrong in your analyses. Everyone is wrong sometimes. If you are wrong, acknowledge it, figure out why, and move on. That is called growth and maturity.
  6. Don’t be afraid of being right. If you are, why are you still working there?
  7. They are not you, and never will be. Avoid mirror imaging your targets at any cost. That is one of the greatest traps in intelligence analysis.
  8. Don’t keep your findings to yourself. CI is more valuable when it reaches – and helps – more people.
  9. If everyone agrees with your findings, then there could be something wrong. Have all of you looked at the situation with the same institutional blinders? Perhaps.
  10. Don’t take your CI work too seriously, or let your CI work take you over. Yes, it is useful, and even interesting, but you also have a life. Enjoy that. Unlike our friends in government, your work will not prevent (or hasten) the end of times.

[1] Frank Watanabe, How To succeed in the DI: Fifteen Axioms for Intelligence Analysts, first posted May 8, 2007. https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/97unclass/axioms.html.