To follow up on Philippe’s post about Thinking in Time: at IE I teach a course called “Geopolitics” to Masters in Advanced Finance students, and “The Multinational Firm and Geostrategy” to Masters in Management students. Students in those classes sometimes ask me to recommend books to help them “think like an intelligence analyst” and apply intelligence methods to analyzing business decisions.
I provide extensive bibliographies as part of my course syllabi, but often students want me to boil my recommendations down to a few key texts. Call it a “getting started in intelligence for businesspeople” reading list.
Neustadt and May’s book discussed above is certainly on the list. Its examples are somewhat US-centric, and are growing dated. Nevertheless, as Philippe says, it deserves to be better known. Its methods make you better aware of how to make better decisions in the present by drawing upon your knowledge of the past.
The next book I recommend is Graham T. Allison’s classic work Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis. Even if you think that you have no interest whatsoever the Cuban Missile Crisis, I strongly recommend it. It’s very clearly written, it moves along at a brisk pace, and it offers a quite sophisticated overview of one of the most important events of the 20th century. Just as important, Allison’s three models explaining Soviet actions in the Caribbean in 1962 can be applied far more widely. Last term, for example, I used these models as templates for helping my MBA students understand the sometimes mysterious moves and perverse outcomes in a cross-border M&A battle. It’s importance to the literature may be judged in part by the fact that Allison’s co-author for the second edition, Philip D. Zelikow, was Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission.
The next book on the list is more of a “cookbook” of analytical methods, The Thinker’s Toolkit: 14 Powerful Techniques for Problem Solving by Morgan D. Jones. A former CIA analyst, Jones distills about fifteen basic techniques commonly used by the intelligence community into easily understood chapters, and illustrates them with basic business examples. Unlike the two books above, Jones has also structured this work explicitly as a workbook, and has tried to be explicit about how businesspeople might use his ideas.
My final recommendation is for those students who are looking less for intelligence techniques that are directly transferable to the worlds of business and finance, and more for a simple introduction to intelligence analysis in a geopolitical context. For them, the best starter text is Timothy Walton’s Challenges in Intelligence Analysis: Lessons from 1300 BCE to the Present. Walton’s short chapters are a great way of understanding the “macro” analytical questions faced by members of the Intelligence Community (or members of the global macro hedge fund community).
Of course there are scores more books and articles that I could recommend, but if you master the ideas of these four texts, you’ll have a solid grounding in the basics of intelligence analysis.
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