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Individuals Cannot Avoid Jumping to Conclusions

Here is a good article unpacking the fallout of group think. It is also a nice set of questions for any campaign planning and campaign strategists. The original article is about CIA and failures of intelligence. Our allies often get what we ask for but not what we want. My sense is that the failure of many of our investments and strategies is because we don’t do enough of the following….

1. Challenge Authority. Challenge Tradition.

2. Probe the Assumptions

3. Look for Indicators. What details could change your mind?

4. Brainstorm the likely responses from opponents.


Here is the section from the original article that hit me…

What our intelligence system really needs is ways to avoid becoming trapped by the natural tendency to leap to conclusions and stick with them. This is true in other fields as well, which is why so much of professional and scientific training is designed to reduce the errors made by fallible people using weak information.

If individuals cannot avoid jumping to conclusions, there are ways for organizations to make up for this. They can systematically solicit the views of people with different perspectives, for example, or use devil’s advocates who will challenge established views.

To compensate for the tendency to rely on implicit understandings, intelligence analysts can be pushed to fully explain their reasoning, allowing others if not themselves to probe the assumptions that often play a large and unacknowledged role in their conclusions.

To better recognize the significance of absences, analysts can learn to think explicitly about what evidence should be appearing if their beliefs are correct. Gaps do not automatically mean that the established ideas are wrong, but they may signal a flaw in the prevailing thesis. Analysts can also be trained to consider, explicitly, what evidence could lead them to change their minds - not only alerting themselves to the possibility that the necessary information might be missing, but also providing an avenue for others to find evidence that might overturn established views.

Analysts should think more broadly and imaginatively about how adversaries are likely to respond, especially when it appears as though they have few alternatives and may be pushed into tactically surprising acts.

Think different, CIA - The Boston Globe