Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

simulations and training intelligence analysts

The Committee on Behavioral and Social Science Research to Improve Intelligence Analysis for National Security of the (US) National Research Council recently published a rather interesting useful and interesting two volume set of studies on Intelligence Analysis for Tomorrow: Advances from the Behavioral and Social Sciences and Intelligence Analysis: Behavioral and Social Scientific Foundations. In the latter collection of research papers, Steve W. J. Kozlowski (Michigan State University) argues that:

If you need people to acquire declarative knowledge, reading (rereading and memorizing) a book or manual may be sufficient. But if you need deeper comprehension of decision-making strategies and the capability to adapt those strategies, then you need to engage active, mindful, effortful learning. These higher level competencies may require systematic, guided hands-on experience in the work context or a “synthetic world” simulation (Bell and Kozlowski, 2007; Cannon-Bowers and Bowers, 2009). Indeed, one of the key challenges for improving analytic skills in the IC is that timely feedback and evaluation of the accuracy of a forecast is typically lacking (e.g., the time frame is too long, the forecast influenced events, etc.). Because simulation incorporates “ground truth” or an objective solution, it could be used effectively to provide analysts with wide-ranging synthetic experience, exposure to low-frequency events, and opportunities to calibrate forecasts with the provision of timely, accurate, and constructive feedback and evaluation. For example, the Defense Intelligence Agency has recently begun using analytic simulation to enhance analysis and decision skills (Peck, 2008). These initial efforts could be augmented substantially by incorporating explicit instructional models in simulation design (Bell et al., 2008).

Yep, what he said—which is why I’ve always liked Kris Wheaton’s work in this area. There are others who also use simulation methods and games in training intelligence analysts (some of whom read this blog), and it would be nice if we could get them to write about it some time. Hint, hint.

More broadly, the point applies to everyone working in a professional field where the sometimes rapid analysis of fragmentary social, political, economic, and/or military trends and information is required—a category that applies well to NGOs, aid workers, diplomats, peacekeepers, and others working in fragile and conflict-affected countries.

One response to “simulations and training intelligence analysts

  1. Michael Peck 17/05/2011 at 4:50 pm

    Here’s a piece I wrote for a few years ago on the Defense Intelligence Agency using videogames to train their analysts. They’ve had to train a lot of young analysts quickly for the War on Terror, and games are one way to do it.

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