Greetings Everyday Spy,
The primary difference between you and an intelligence analyst is the information you have access to. But unless you are in the business of secrets, you have access to all the information you need to make day to day assessments. In fact, intelligence analysts use open source information, which is what you have access to, as an integral part of their analysis and assessments for decision makers.
The Awareness, Research, and Cycle (ARC) system will allow you to see the information you are presented with each day for what it is; fact, fiction, influence.
You now know that you are a target of people and organizations who want to influence your decisions and behaviors. You must maintain an awareness of the cognitive forces that naturally influence your thinking and are used by those who want to influence you. Once you are aware of your own cognitive biases, distortions and dissonance, you can work to keep them in check as you consume and process information. You will be able to recognize them at work in others and bring them to light. You can now recognize logical fallacies and combat them in yourself and others.
The first step to the Research phase of the ARC system is to understand the difference between assessment and assumption. Assumption is a natural cognitive shortcut that leads us to accept a belief as true without any proof. Assessment is a method of reaching the truth based on objective, observable information collected in the present moment. Don’t trust your assumptions, trust your assessments.
Developing an assessment requires that you ask the right questions. Let your curiosity guide you. From open ended questions to closed questions. What is the source of the information? Who is affected by and/or has an interest in this issue? Why are these conclusions being made?
In your search for answers, be open to new information, focus on facts, and use precise language. Facts are proven and factual statements can be proven or disproven. Opinions cannot be proven or disproven. When using data for an assessment, ensure that the source is reliable, the data gathering met the appropriate standards, and the data is being used in the appropriate context.
Finally, engage in deliberate dialogue to exchange ideas and information. Just as analysts work in teams, we should not work alone in creating our assessments. Exchanging information with others can provide new insights, new sources, and new understanding. Enter dialogue with openness and awareness. Use precision of language, focus on facts, and don’t get carried away with emotion.
We began the Cycle phase of the ARC system by discussing the difference between a hypothesis and a conclusion. A hypothesis is a proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation. A conclusion is a final decision reached by reasoning. We must accept that not everything can be proven definitively. Our goal when digesting the news is not to reach a firm conclusion but to develop a hypothesis that can be investigated and used in our assessment.
Our assessment is also not definitive, it is ongoing. Just as the ARC system is a cyclical process, the process of assessment goes in a cycle as well. Collect the news from reliable sources at set times. Process the information by letting it pique your curiosity. Then analyze the information through fact finding efforts. Finally, form your assessment, recognizing the possibility your assessment may change with new information or progression of events.
Most issues we come across in the news are more complex than presented by the media. By using the ARC system, you can filter out fact from fiction and influence. You can confidently develop your own assessment and make sound decisions. By completing this course, you have joined the community of Everyday Spies whose thirst for knowledge knows no bounds. We are pleased to have you in our ranks.
Read the provided materials on the break up of Yugoslavia for a look into what can happen on a high level when the ARC system is not utilized.
- The Yugoslav Experiment
- Yugoslavia Transformed
- Breakup of Yugoslavia, 1990 – 1992
- Unheeded Warning of War: Why Policymakers Ignored the 1990 Yugoslavia Estimate