I’m preparing to leave town on another trip and find myself overstretched in terms of time but I have to note that Kent’s Imperative had some intriguing posts up ( hat tip to Michael Tanji) , about which I’d like to offer a few comments:
Aside from seeing how uber-techies live and making me nostalgic about past years of reading defector-dissident Soviet bloc lit, I’d like to highlight this passage regarding a KI suggestion to the IC for personnel reform:
“A chance for line level workers to do the kind of intel they want to do (versus the latest crisis they have been thrown into), at least part of the time? Or to contribute to the literature of intelligence? (Modeled along Google’s 20% time.)”
My unqualified guess is that this would increase the productivity and prescience of the IC by roughly the same proportion that expanding private farming helped the Chinese economy under Deng Xiaoping. People typically generate their most valuable insights about those subjects which they are both curious as well as passionate – i.e. earlier in the learning curve than the status of graybeard authority ( once you think you know everything, you tend to stop learning).
The bar to doing this is not a manpower shortage but a middle-management fear of subordinate autonomy. Forcing a talented subordinate to do irrelevant busywork confirms a manager’s authority and power. Autonomous subordinates who do self-directed productive work tend to confirm the irrelevance of middle-management. Few managers have the psychological wherewithal to be adept facilitators, mentors or coaches of gifted employees as an efficient “management” outlook is an inimical perspective to generating creativity and sustaining ” unproductive” exploration.
From a historian’s perspective, a cool post ( perhaps less interesting to others). Some historiography, lots of methodology. Money quote/conclusion:
“As for our opinions on the great divide between the two kinds of houses, we find ourselves veterans of uniquely transnational issues, having been subject to every manner of surge and task force and working group and crisis cell, in the most unusual of niches. We prefer to see small, aggressive, ad-hoc structures comprised of both analysts and operators from a wide range of issues and regional desks with interests and equities in the same target which overlaps their accounts. Only then, by throwing everything against the wall in a structure short lived enough to avoid its own bureaucracy, and disconnected enough to be (at least partially) immune from the day to day politics within a given agency or office, have we found the kind of answers we sought regarding the great questions of process.
We strongly believe such radically unstable and short lived environments are most effective because they are the very manifestation of Schumpeter’s process of creative destruction. It is certainly no way to create a sinecure, nor even to build a long term career path – but it is the best way we have found to generate new and innovative approaches and answers to hard target problems, and to the problems others have not yet begun to identify let alone address.”
Hear, Hear! Very strong agreement in a John Arqilla-esque vein.
It will happen but not until after several more disasters force that kind of transformation or an unusually bold and subtle visionary implements it on the quiet. There is far too much bureaucratic inertia because the vested interests prefer paralysis in which they hold the reins to successful action where they become recognized for the marginalized support staff they really are.
In my turn, if any KI gents happen upon this post, I suggest they look here. From this acorn of an idea, an oak will grow. Mark my words.