Anyone who’s ever googled ‘Intelligence Analysis’ will probably have seen Kristan Wheatons’ intelligence blog – Sources and Methods.
I remember reading this blog when I was a budding soldier preparing for my first overseas deployment.
This week, we hear directly from Kris as he drops some knowledge bombs and shares his insight from years of teaching intelligence studies at Mercyhurst University.
NB: Between completing this interview and posting the article Prof. Wheaton has announced he is leaving his long-held position at Mercyhurst University to become the Professor of Strategic Futures at the US Army War College. Congrats!
In this short article you’ll get;
- Intelligence career advice
- Doing intelligence vs just learning about it
- A unique skill / tip recommended to any potential intelligence analyst (no, it’s not “learn a language”)
Introducing Prof. Kristan Wheaton
He started the sources and method blog way back in 2004, when ‘blogs’ weren’t really a thing.
The sources and Methods blog was initially developed as a way to talk about interesting things coming across his desk each day.
Since then Kris has published almost 1000 posts on intelligence, collection, analysis & all elements of the intelligence profession.
Kris owes his success to his time spent actually ‘doing intelligence’, rather than just focusing on the theory.
Killing the Intelligence Cycle
In a must-read thirteen part series, Kris explains how he’s abandoned the old ‘traditional’ intel cycle in favour of a much more appropriate and efficient parallel process of intelligence production.
“What helps make so many of our products successful, less expensive to produce and faster to write is our view of the intel process.”
While I personally strongly advocate for the use of the intelligence cycle, Kris’ article is a recommended read for budding intelligence analysts!
Intelligent Career Advice For Intelligence Professionals
Some of you would be aware that I wrote a detailed piece on how you can become an intelligence today (even if you’ve got no experience).
Without the need for the degree, titles or training offered by ‘traditional intelligence’ routes.
Kris also agrees and believes, more than ever today it’s entirely possible to get into intelligence without going through the government first.
“One of the biggest problems for someone trying to get an intelligence job is whether Intel is right for them.”
A lot of students have misconceptions about intelligence work and sometimes they do not realise that it is a bad fit until they actually get on the job.
Intelligence Education – Should you study that Intelligence Degree?
In our interview, Kris offered that one of the best ways to avoid this is to start with a degree program that focuses on the applied side (the actual “doing”) of intelligence.
“If your readers are looking for a career in intelligence, I would recommend that they look for a suitable intelligence studies degree program.”
“I would encourage intelligence students to look for a program with a strong focus on application as well as theory (such as the Mercyhurst program).”
In terms of professional education, there’s something to be said for actually getting involved and doing intelligence rather than just talking about it.
Programs such as the Mercyhurst Intelligence Program, provide the foundation and often help students find various opportunities in the intelligence community.
The International Association for Intelligence Education (IAFIE) is another great resource for finding intelligence education programs.
Specialist Skills for Intelligence Professionals
Rather than repeat advice that you’ve probably heard before,
Kris recommends developing a highly valuable but often underdeveloped skill in most young intelligence analysts…
Learn graphic design!
Graphics and visualizations are some of the most effective ways to communicate the results of analysis but far too many young analysts have cut their teeth on only text-based products.
“Getting good, or at least better with graphics is a skill I would recommend to every analyst.”
Resource: if you’ve seen any of my article images throughout the blog, I use a free online graphic design website called Canva.
As a typical ‘left-brainer’, I can assure you I do not have an artsy ‘creative mind’, so this is a great resource in line with what Kris recommends.
So that’s our interview with Prof. Wheaton, make sure you check out his blog over at Sources and Methods, and if you’ve got any questions for him you can post them in the comments section of this article – or find him over on twitter @kwheaton.