Common Core Analysis Techniques Part 2

Richard J. Heuer Jr. and Randolph H. Pherson identify seven common core techniques every analyst should master and utilize in their book, ‘Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis’. The seven techniques identified by Heuer and Pherson are Structured Brainstorming, Cross-Impact Matrix, Key Assumptions Check, Indicators, Analysis of Competing Hypotheses, Premortem Analysis and Structured Self-Critique and ‘What If? Analysis’. Heur and Pherson believe that analysts should not only be aware of these techniques, but they should also be familiar with their appropriate application and benefits. In the previous related blog post we explored Structured Brainstorming, Cross-Impact Matrix, Key Assumption Check and Indicators. In this blog post we will examine Analysis of Competing Hypotheses, Premortem Analysis and Structured Self-Critique and ‘What If? Analysis’.
Richard J. Heuer Jr. and Randolph H. Pherson identify seven common core techniques every analyst should master and utilize in their book, ‘Structured Analytic Techniques for Intelligence Analysis’. The seven techniques identified by Heuer and Pherson are Structured Brainstorming, Cross-Impact Matrix, Key Assumptions Check, Indicators, Analysis of Competing Hypotheses, Premortem Analysis and Structured Self-Critique and ‘What If? Analysis’. Heur and Pherson believe that analysts should not only be aware of these techniques, but they should also be familiar with their appropriate application and benefits. In the previous related blog post we explored Structured Brainstorming, Cross-Impact Matrix, Key Assumption Check and Indicators. In this blog post we will examine Analysis of Competing Hypotheses, Premortem Analysis and Structured Self-Critique and ‘What If? Analysis’.

Analysis of Competing Hypotheses is a common core technique that requires analysts to generate a number of plausible hypotheses at the start of an investigation, rather than focus on one plausible hypothesis. (Generation of a full set of plausible hypotheses can help prevent tunnel vision created by focusing on just one plausible hypothesis.) Each item of evidence and information is examined for its consistency or inconsistency with each hypothesis. The analyst's unique perspective and knowledge also helps evaluate each hypothesis for consistencies or inconsistencies. These exercises help further establish or discredit the validity of each hypothesis, ideally leading analysts to the most valid and consistent hypothesis. This is considered to be a rational and methodical process which applies a key element of scientific method to intelligence analysis.

Premortem Analysis and Structured Self-Critique are actually two easy to-use common core techniques which are applied in tandem.  When these techniques are used together, analysis team members can effectively challenge the accuracy of their own conclusions. Premortem Analysis utilizes a form of reframing, where the question or problem at hand is restated from a new perspective. This new perspective creates new aspects of consideration and should be analyzed for new solutions. After application of Premorten Analysis, Structured Self-Critique can then be applied. Structured Self-Critique requires analyst to respond to new questions created by the newly generated perspective regarding a variety of factors, including sources of uncertainty, analytic processes, critical assumption, diagnosticity of evidence, information gaps, and the potential for deception. This way, the new perspective is thoroughly analyzed and all aspects of consideration are accounted for appropriately.

What If? Analysis is the final common core analysis technique as identified by Heuer and Pherson. This technique requires analysts to imagine that unexpected events have occurred and then with this ‘new’ benefit of ‘hindsight’, analyze how the events occurred and the resulting repercussions. This technique helps create awareness that prepares analysts to recognize early signs of significant change and also help plan for contingency. This technique can also help decision makers become alert and aware of their own invalid assumptions.

Analysis of Competing Hypotheses, Premortem Analysis and Structured Self-Critique and What If? Analysis are just three of the seven common core techniques, identified by Heuer and Pherson, that every analyst should master. If utilized and applied properly, these common core techniques can help analysts perform their job rationally and methodically, and ideally with greater levels of assurance and accuracy.


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