Saturday, August 30, 2008


The great task of our time is to contribute to the transition from the industrial age to what comes next. The following article addresses this task in the intelligence community and draws on lessons from other institutions from baseball to the entertainment industry. This transition is taking place across all the institutions in our society from business to the military to political movements to education to government in general. It offers great opportunities for imaginative thinking and moving beyond the inherited conventional wisdom. Let's take advantage of those opportunities.

Thinking About Rethinking: Examples of Reform in Other Professions by William Nolte

Third, keep in mind that metaphors can be useful and important; they are rarely real. That is to say, most metaphors represent only a fragmentary view of a larger reality. The Intelligence Community is one example of a metaphor gone rigid. So is the intelligence production cycle, a monument to 19th and 20th century industrial concepts, focused on a sequential production line from needs to output and back again.

Does anyone think information works this way in the 21st century? Why shouldn’t collectors deal directly with end users? Do I really submit my information needs to Google, then let someone process, manipulate them, and assign them to someone for delivery? The dominant metaphor for the early 21st century information environment is either neural or cellular, and any structure attempting to react to that environment through sequential, industrial processes is doomed. Even more dangerous, it is protected from the fate of Pan American, TWA, Montgomery Wards, and other failed former industry leaders, only by the guarantee of an annual congressional appropriation. And it will survive institutionally, but it will not achieve success as an instrument of public policy.

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