Thinking Methods of Intelligence Analysis

In order to improve the quality of intelligence analysis, the US intelligence community places great emphasis on the use of analytical thinking methods in intelligence analysis. Analytical thinking is characterized by slow, deliberate, conscious reasoning. When intelligence analysts are confronted with incomplete, ambiguous, and sometimes deceptive information, analytical thinking is needed to resolve these challenges.

1. Critical Thinking

As far as the U.S. intelligence community is concerned, in the past intelligence work, many cases of major mistakes originated from the analysis and judgment of experts. Using critical thinking can avoid analytical errors that come with fixed thinking. Critical thinking requires expert analytical examination of all evidence for and against a proposition, and critical consideration of clear and unclear interpretations. Independent thinking is the key quality of intelligence analysts, using critical thinking and not blindly following authority is an important value of intelligence work.

Critical thinking helps intelligence analysts decide what is the best approach to a particular intelligence problem by asking thinkers to ask broader questions and questions while working to find answers to those questions. Critical thinking in the intelligence analysis process is mainly used to examine key assumptions, strive to find evidence of opposing views, and take multiple perspectives seriously for as long as possible.

2. Structural Analysis

Among analytical thinking methods, structured analysis is a rising star and belongs to systematic thinking methods. Structured analysis provides a step-by-step process. The principle of structured analysis is to concretize and externalize the analyst's internal thought process in a systematic way, making it more observable so that this process can be shared, critiqued, and improved. The main difference between the structured analysis method and other methods in intelligence analysis is that it reduces the human subjectivity in the analysis and increases the logical rigor and method transparency.

The structured analysis method decomposes the specific problem that needs to be analyzed into several parts, and refines it to form a step-by-step process to deal with the problem, which helps analysts organize a large amount of scattered data. This approach makes the analyst's mind more open and more receptive to self-criticism and criticism from others.

Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, but using a structured approach can reduce the frequency and severity of errors. A structured approach helps analysts think more rigorously about the issues to be analyzed, prevent preconceived ideas, conduct prudent and rigorous evidence review, and ensure that analytical conclusions are confirmed and validated.