Posts Tagged ‘National Intelligence’

Blindspots Explained

Sunday, December 13th, 2009
Difficult to Manage

Difficult to Manage

I had occasion to hear the very thoughtful words of Kenneth Knight, the National Intelligence Officer for Warning. He oversees teams of analysts to brief the President to “avoid surprises”. He spoke about the challenge of overcoming cognitive bias, or seeing the world through the filter through which you have become accustomed. This is hard for anyone, but particularly for intelligence officers, to go against their own analytic frameworks that have served them well in the past. To try to compensate for this risk, that the view of the intelligence agencies leaves the country vulnerable to their own blindspots, he challenges his assumptions, but always know that he is working against the tyranny of time.

This insight is applicable to small businesses as well. I had the experience of working in New Orleans post-Katrina where hurricane recovery was understandably the top concern. But the more immediate threat to one small business served by the local Small Business Development Center was a fire. The proprietor had intended to back up his data in advance of June 1, the start of the new hurricane season, but time was not on his side. His facility burned to the ground before he could prepare for the hurricanes. Another example was shared with me by the SBDC in New Orleans of a commercial shrimp facility that had to discard $500,000 worth of their catch due to spoilage when a power outage disrupted their electrical supply. Even in the Gulf Coast, a fire or a power outage is the more statistically significant risk than a hurricane. Similarly for California, a seismically active area where, thankfully, there has not been a major earthquake. But every year, southern California experiences an outbreak of fires. Sometime we have to change our frame of reference to better perceive the more immediate threat – a challenge for small business owners and national intelligence authorities alike.