Recently I’ve been super interested in finding out what separates a good intelligence analyst from someone who just shares the job title – so in this article, we hear from Five Intelligence Professionals who are at the top of their game.
In this article, you’ll learn what these Five Intelligence Professionals consider to be their ‘best-kept secrets’ when it comes to being better than all the rest!
#1 Vaune – Intelligence Analysis (Military)
What do you guys think about this quote?
“Intelligence is less about knowing the information, and more about knowing where to get the information”
This sounded counter-intuitive when I remember being told Intelligence is not about remembering everything or ‘knowing it all’ but rather ‘knowing where to find information when you need it’ which mattered most.
A good Intelligence Analyst will understand what sources of information are available, and how to best get the information they need! Whether it’s open-source reporting, drawing from you Intelligence holdings (i.e. databases), or tasking a collection agency, good intelligence analysts know where to find the information they need, when they need it.
- I tend to keep my bookmarks filed under different topics of interest and event have some marked ‘Daily, Weekly, and Monthly’ depending on how regularly they post information related to my interests.
- Set up Google Alerts for your focal points and topics
- Share your information requirements broadly – I add them to the footer of my email signature block so when people receive an email from me in work, they’ll also know what information I’m currently looking for.
#2 James – All Source Intelligence Analyst
Think of Creative ways to get information.
It’s integral that intelligence analysts ‘fight for information’, and collect wherever possible.
This includes creative ways to get information. So whether you need to pick up the phone, or knock on someone’s door, establishing links with partner agencies, fostering relationships with other analysts the more an intelligence analyst knows about ‘what’s going on’, the better situational awareness they have and better they’ll do!
- Don’t re-invent the wheel. In my experience, there’s usually always something that’s been done before. Before you start a project from scratch, ask around – it’s likely there’s something you can use to build on, rather than starting fresh.
- If you don’t know something, just ask.
#3 Rachel – Intelligence Officer
Develop Your Intellectual Curiosity
Intellectual Curiosity is not necessary something you can just ‘have or do’ but more related to the type of person suited for intelligence analysis, or more specifically the work required. Having a natural curiosity and wanting to learn and know more is one of the significant personality traits I’ve identified in intelligence analysts over the years.
Those that do exceptionally well in intelligence are the analysts who have an intellectual curiosity. After all, no amount of technical training can motivate an analyst to produce a product with original insight unless they actually care about the topic.
This sort of curiosity often tends to yield substantial results as analysts are able to focus on something they themselves are interested in, learn more and then provide assessments based on their original insight.
A natural curiosity is required for analysts to ‘think outside the box’.
- Find what you enjoy learning about / reading about and position yourself as the subject matter expert on it.
- Read everything. Every morning I quickly read everything in my inbox(s) and make sure if I see something I know other people are working on to send it to them.
#5 Vanessa – Human Source Handler
Communication is Key!
Ask questions, get answers. Then ask more detailed questions.
This formula sounds super simple…and it is. But it works. This is what 99% of people fail to do – they fail to follow up their questions. Often people are just satisfied if they’ve found an answer
- Never underestimate the power of picking up the phone – email is lazy, communication is key.
- Everyone has their own motivations, even your friends, and colleagues. When you identify what your customer wants most then you can make sure you deliver what they want every time!
- Get yourself a decent digital voice recorder. I record my thoughts all the time, and it comes in handy when talking to colleagues, or conducting interviews.
So there you have it, broad experience and advice from five intelligence professionals. Thanks to all those who contributed to the article, and for providing your sage advice to the Intelligence101 community.
For those who have any specific questions of any of the five professionals above, or about the tips and content they’ve provided post your questions and comments in the comment box below and one of our Intelligence Professionals above will get back to you directly.