Because I Use the Analytic Spectrum
In today’s world of 24/7 news, too many of us are willing to offer an opinion before knowing the hard facts. In cognitive psychology, this is called coming to Premature Closure. Other pitfalls include the Vividness Bias and Relying on First Impressions (See Pherson and Pherson’s Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence for descriptions of these biases and intuitive traps.)
One way to minimize your vulnerability to these traps is to follow the steps of the Analytic Spectrum (see graphic). The Spectrum was developed by Globalytica President Kathy Pherson to illustrate the different stages of analysis and how one stage can build on another. The four stages are Descriptive, Explanatory, Evaluative, and Estimative. The four stages also correspond to the four types of analytic products, ranging from Factsheets to National Intelligence Estimates.
The next time a national news story breaks, discipline yourself to work your way through the four stages before announcing your conclusion. Let’s see how this works using the attack on the Westminster Bridge and the Houses of Parliament in London on March 27, 2017 as an example.
Descriptive: What are the facts?
The perpetrator sped across the Westminster Bridge killing 4 people and injuring more than 50, crashed into the fence around the Houses of Parliament, and then stabbed one of the security guards to death.
Explanatory: What do the facts mean?
The perpetrator appeared intent on causing considerable human damage, knowing that his actions would probably result in his death. Was he inspired by ISIS to conduct the attack or was he simply mentally deranged?
Evaluative: Why is this important?
Is this pattern of attack becoming more frequent? Does this incident suggest I may be in more danger when I travel or whenever I am in public spaces?
Estimative: What next?
Will this type of attack become more frequent? Is the ISIS radicalization program becoming more effective in inspiring lone wolf attacks? Do we need to commit more resources to combating ISIS-type social media or to dealing with mental disorders in society?
I walked across the bridge one month after the attack and watched repairs being made to the fence around the Houses of Parliament. Life in London had returned to normal, and tourism had not been affected. Most media outlets reported that the popular response to the attack was that business should continue as usual and such aberrant attacks should not be allowed to affect personal behavior. But those using the Analytic Spectrum might be more inclined to argue that attention should be given both to combating the power of the radical extremist propaganda and to providing more effective mental health care.
Designed by Globalytica’s analytic experts, the Analytic Spectrum Quick Look is a 30-60 minute, self-paced professional development session utilizing online activities and exercises that will save the analyst time and create a more focused product for the client.
For more information on how you can access the Analytic Spectrum: Quick Look and other online learning resources, click here.