Sunday, September 25, 2005

Red Team for hurricanes

The Red Team's job is to devise the kinds of scenarios which intelligence analysts might miss -- blindsiders, out of the box affairs -- but the quality of pproduct such teams can produce is dependent not only on the brightness and diversity of the team members, but also on the kind of facilitation they receive when meeting. As a celebrated Stanford demonstration shows, the best brainstorming often occurs when inhibitions have been lowered, and it is not uncommon for the first clue to a breakthrough insight is thrown out as a joke, and only when a second participant picks up on it and takes it seriously is it seen for what it is.

The report issued by the DHS is enirely lacking in signs of creativity. There are no quirky hypotheses, nothing one would not expect, nothing not previously present within the box. My question: is this because the neat and relevant details have been sucked out of the presentation during write up? or because there were none?

Either way, it's the outliers among the ideas considered that are of greatest importance -- and leaving them in the final document is crucial, since they may trigger further ideas in other readers... but seemingly we're a long way from understanding real creative thinking as yet.

Robert "Bear" Bryant, one-time deputy director of the FBI, quoted some sound advice he once received:

Don't kill your mavericks. They might save your life someday, and they're the ones that will always have the great ideas. So try to take care of them.
The thing is, not only are your mavericks important -- so are their maverick ideas!


John Mintz, Homeland Security Employs Imagination, WP, June 18, 2004
How Terrorists Might Exploit a Hurricane, IAIP, DHS, September 15, 2004