Techniques Used By CIA Analysts To See Alternative Perspectives
Excerpts (Via Office Hero Headquarters)
From the book Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, “Several techniques for seeing alternative perspectives exploit the general principle of coming at the problem from a different direction and asking different questions. These techniques break your existing mind-set by causing you to play a different and unaccustomed role.”
Thinking Backwards. One technique for exploring new ground is thinking backwards. As an intellectual exercise, start with an assumption that some event you did not expect has actually occurred. Then, put yourself into the future, looking back to explain how this could have happened. Think what must have happened six months or a year earlier to set the stage for that outcome, what must have happened six months or a year before that to prepare the way, and so on back to the present.
Crystal Ball. The crystal ball approach works in much the same way as thinking backwards. Imagine that a “perfect” intelligence source (such as a crystal ball) has told you a certain assumption is wrong. You must then develop a scenario to explain how this could be true. If you can develop a plausible scenario, this suggests your assumption is open to some question.
Devil’s Advocate. A devil’s advocate is someone who defends a minority point of view. He or she may not necessarily agree with that view, but may choose or be assigned to represent it as strenuously as possible. The goal is to expose conflicting interpretations and show how alternative assumptions and images make the world look different.