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Some random thoughts about training

Released on 2012-02-27 00:00 GMT

Email-ID 1697484
Date 1970-01-01 01:00:00
Hi Rodger,

Here are some thoughts on training... just random musing that you said you
wanted to download from me. These come from my experience both as an
intern, junior analyst, analyst and as intern coordiator.

First, I really think it is absolutely crucial that when it comes to
training, we have senior analyst VERY visibly in charge of the process.
Sure the administrative work of running the intern program is something
the junior staff can do, but for training to be successful, there has to
be sufficient authority behind it.

Some thoughts on STRATFOR culture:

1. First on this list is that I think we need to make it clear that saying
"I don't know... I need to find out" is perfectly fine. This is not clear
to interns. Discussions on the analyst list and in person often devolve
into analysts doing intellectual gymnastics to prove they have an opinion
or knowledge on everything going on. This is not productive as it is
simply impossible to know everything. I have honestly heard analyst say "I
don't know" maybe 5 times in my 2.5 years here. This seeps into interns
who then think they need to pretend to know everything to get hired. Not

2. We can be very mean/aggressive/bitchy at each othe when discussing
work, especially when we feel we are stepping into each other's AORs
(which is funny, since G says this is the main downfall of the CIA). This
has a different effect on different people. For example, it makes some
recruits think they can act the same way (think Aaron Moore). Second,
there is this FANTASY (note: F A N T A S Y) that STRATFOR is a place where
young, brilliant, ambitious people get together, rip each other apart, and
then come up with an idea/analysis that is the sum of the parts. In
reality, STRATFOR is divided between those who can yell and those who are
yelled at. This is VERY clear to everyone on the junior staff. What
happens is two things: a) junior analysts/interns/recruits decide to fight
back and incur the wrath of senior staff and labeled as
inflexible/un-trainable or b) junior analysts/interns/recruits decide that
it is much easier to not fight back and become "yes men". Neither is what
we want. We need to make it clear that at some point discussion STOPS. We
are a BUSINESS. We do not have the luxury of academia or government to
endlessly bullshit. BUT, this does not mean that we need to do it in an
aggressive manner. And besides, if one needs to raise their voice to
exercise authority, then they have already lost it (isn't that like a
Confucius quote or something?)

3. Analysts have to be more relaxed on being challenged. I think it may be
good to start building some sort of a routinized criticism sessions, if
for nothing else than to develop a culture of being able to take
criticism. We are not going to be able to criticize ourselves (truly) if
we don't accept criticism from others. So maybe some sort of a Maoist
session where one analyst's analysis is destroyed could be a good
exercise. I don't know...

4. I think we are getting sloppy and we are starting to lose our drive to
research things in depth. We are simply covering too much with too few
people and our daily output, considering staffing, is making it impossible
to be more thorough. How do we fix this? We talked about this... I don't
know. But we are NOT doing a good job balancing daily "for today" with
long term work.

Here's an idea to resolve this problem. One of the qualities that ALL of
our analysts should have (even regional) is situational awareness of the
entire globe. That means that it would do good for Kamran, Matt or shit
even YOU to write an analysis on Zimbabwe. Plus its kind of fun. PLUS, it
gets different analysts working with different analysts (so for example
instead of you working with me on ONE analysis in 2.5 years, you get to
see my work on more opportunities).

So think if Mark had to tell you what he wanted written for today's Zimb
piece and what he wanted researched. Or if he told me. Or if I told Mark
what I wanted for a Romania analysis. Now you have different analysts
helping out on for today tasks on different AORs. Makes them much more
involved... They start making connections on how different AORs operate,
unearthing patterns that could help them in forecasting their own AOR

Why am I suggesting this?

Because maybe we can assign "long-term project" days. So an analyst would
work intensely on FOR TODAY for 3 or 4 days of the week and the other 1-2
days he/she would be either working on monographs or doing that
"INTELLIGENCE" work you were telling me about this afternoon... you know,
when you can actually mull about long-term changes and trends and pour
over data to unearth anomalies. If I can just walk Mark or Karen through
the Romania analysis in the am, and then "red team" it by making sure it
is up to my liking, I can concentrate the rest of the day on long term
stuff and not worry about putting out fires. And then next day I help
Karen or Mark with their AOR, giving THEM time to do long term and
expanding my horizons.

Ok, I just bored you to death.