The conundrum of analysis

In Uncategorized on 09/10/2010 at 5:22 am

I’m reading the biography of  Sir Dick White who has the distinction of being the head (at different times) of Britain’s MI5 (counter intelligence agency) and SIS or MI6 (espionage). They were agencies with different traditions and the officers were from different social backgrounds.

He told his biographer that the classic conundrum of intelligence is that it is classified as unreliable if it does not confirm preconceptions.

I would say the same is true when it comes to any kind of analysis.  The analysis is doubted if it is not the conventional wisdom. Enron is a case in point. There were analysts and journalists who were screaming,  based on publicly available information, it was a house of cards. But they were ignored until the mood changed.

White said the only way to solve the intelligence conundrum was for the messenger to be trusted. Likewise in analysis. Another way of solving the problem is for the analyst to be shrewd enough to tailor his analysis so that it seems an extension of the conventional wisdom.

The film director,Stanley Kulbrick was a master of just being ahead of the tastes of his audience, slightly. As a result he made box-office hits — 2001: A Space Odyssey, Spartacus, Dr Stranelove, Paths of Glory, Lolita etc etc — that were also art house movies.

Of course this stretching of preconceptions is not always possible in analysis as in film making. A Clockwork Orange was considered too violent and he never won an Academy Award for best picture or director. Only one of his films got an Oscar: for special effects.

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