Tag Archives: Social construction

Constructing Cassandra Now Available

Our new book on strategic surprise, Constructing Cassandra:  Reframing Intelligence Failure at the CIA, 1947-2001, is now available for pre-order worldwide.


Interested readers in North America can read reviews and order it via  Amazon.com or Barnes&Nobel;  in the UK you can use Amazon.co.uk; in the rest of the EU, you may wish to use Amazon.fr or Amazon.de; and in Asia you may wish to use  Amazon.jp.

If you do order it thank you.  Naturally, if you have any questions about the book, please ask us.

Crafting Non-Predictive Strategy, Part II: Start with who you are

In the first part of this series, Milo and I examined the complexity of nonlinear environments and tried to show how, when confronted with such an environment, energy spent on a deep understanding of the present beats attempts at predicting the future.  Hence our call for a non-predictive approach to strategy.

Nonlinear systems can be found in nature, but they are particularly common and problematic when they involve human issues.  While such human nonlinear systems can display regularities over long time periods, most major political, economic and business issues are essentially nonlinear and permeated by social facts.  What such human-centered, nonlinear systems have in common but which is often overlooked is that one cannot deal with them as if they were natural science problems.  For one thing, and as we have argued in a recent Forbes article with the example of Usama bin Ladin, how you define the issue you’re dealing with depends on who you are.  This is also the reason that “genius” fails.

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Lack of diversity paralyzed the CIA. It can cripple your organization, too

Read our guest post on Forbes here.

The most recent Forbes piece is about the coming demise of Microsoft. Read it here.

Conference on strategic surprises at the CIA

On Wednesday, January 18th, I will be giving a conference on the topic of strategic surprise at EMLYON Business School, as part of the series “The Art of Management”.  In this context, a strategic surprise is defined as the sudden realization by an organization that it has operated on the basis of an erroneous threat assessment resulting in an inability to anticipate a serious threat to its vital interests.

While the majority of the research explains strategic surprises (such as September 11) with psychological, bureaucratic or cybernetic (absence of detection of weak signals for example) models, an in-depth research on more than 50 years of the CIA’s history shows that the origin of strategic surprises often lies with the characteristics of identity and culture of the organization.  This research was started by Milo a few years ago, and we now pursue it together.  We show how the CIA was the victim of several strategic surprises, and that these surprises are largely explained by the social construction of the organization: whom it recruits, how it trains agents and analysts, how it develops its culture, etc.  In essence, what an organization is surprised by depends on its identity. After presenting the finding about the CIA, we will discuss what lessons can be drawn from these results for businesses, particularly in the field of innovation and strategy.  We will make the case that here too, the difficulties are often cultural, and results can be improved using this mode of analysis.

If you are interested in the conference, please contact us.