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Jan 15, 2021

Kathy and Randy Pherson both had successful careers in the US Intelligence Community, where they pioneered new analytical methods and would later help bring those methods to widespread adoption in the community. Both are also successful business leaders who created companies that build value for others.

In the OODAcast we discuss the third edition of their book: Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence. They provide their context on what a good intelligence program in industry or government looks like, how to avoid out for cognitive bias and cognitive traps, how to be proactive in data collection and processing, and how to produce intelligence in ways that can be consumed by decision-makers. The also provide insights from the latest cognitive science and do it in a way that can help any analyst in any enterprise improve. We also examine what critical thinking is, and how to teach it.

Kathy reviews what she calls the "5 habits of the critical thinker", which includes:

  1. Examine your key assumptions
  2. Consider multiple alternatives
  3. Look for disconfirming data
  4. Look for drivers underneath your topic and finder indicators of future action
  5. Understand the context and how the issue is framed, through framing seek to understand

Kathy and Randy have had a very interesting career together (they were the first married couple to join and spend a full career at the CIA). One aspect of their career I found particularly interesting was their work with the famous Richards (Dick) Heuer. Dick had taught Randy on topics like counter deception, and was later a contractor under Kathy. Years later Dick and Randy would work together on books including one on Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis. We hope you enjoy meeting them and learning from them in this OODAcast.

Other related reading:

  • A Practitioner’s View of Corporate Intelligence: Organizations in competitive environments should continually look for ways to gain advantage over their competitors. The ability of a business to learn and translate that learning into action, at speeds faster than others, is one of the most important competitive advantages you can have. This fact of business life is why the model of success in Air to Air combat articulated by former Air Force fighter pilot John Boyd, the Observe – Orient – Decide – Act (OODA) decision loop, is so relevant in business decision-making today.
  • Useful Standards For Corporate Intelligence: Discusses standards in intelligence, a topic that can improve the quality of all corporate intelligence efforts and do so while reducing ambiguity in the information used to drive decisions and enhancing the ability of corporations to defend their most critical information.
  • Optimizing Corporate Intelligence: Actionable recommendation on ways to optimize a corporate intelligence effort. It is based on a career serving large scale analytical efforts in the US Intelligence Community and in applying principles of intelligence in corporate America.
  • An Executive’s Guide To Cognitive Bias in Decision Making: Cognitive Bias and the errors in judgement they produce are seen in every aspect of human decision-making, including in the business world. Companies that have a better understanding of these cognitive biases can optimize decision making at all levels of the organization, leading to better performance in the market. Companies that ignore the impact these biases have on corporate decision-making put themselves at unnecessary risk.