How to Embrace Wrongness Within Competitive Intelligence to Help Your Thinking Skills

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How to embrace wrongness within competitive intelligence to help your thinking skills

Should you be so minded to consider how an intelligence analyst would think most likely includes retaining a generally open mindset to new information and ideas? This article asks how to embrace wrongness.

Understanding that cognitive biases can all too often prevent us from accepting new thoughts and embracing a certain humility for the growth of new impulses whilst understanding and admitting that you may just be wrong. 

So with that in mind, we thought that we collected our thoughts on the benefits of embracing wrongness within the competitive intelligence process to help improve cognition and reasoning, not just within the intelligence sphere but across all decision-making processes.

A great starting point is to discuss our four inalienable built-in reactions to the process of receiving new information or ideas, along with any inbuilt cognitive biases in thinking.

By applying this approach, amongst other things, an introduction to how intelligence analysts operate and how they divine the understanding of the key and important outcomes, so here goes…

Reaction to New Information and Ideas

All too often, we tend to react very differently when presented with new information or ideas. The four main reactions tend to be:

  • Politician reaction – focusing on how stuff helps their beliefs
  • Preacher reaction – not open to change at all
  • Prosecutor reaction – questioning everything
  • Scientist reaction – open-mindedness that intelligence analysts should embrace

Of these four reactions, the scientist’s reaction is widely considered to be the most open-minded. It tends to assist the direction of examining information and ideas through a lens of curiosity and to seek knowledge over conviction. This way of thinking allows for the possibility of change and growth over dogmatic stances. Creating an environment where positive transformation can occur.

What is competitive intelligence?

Competitive intelligence is the finding & critical analysis of information to make sense of what’s happening & why. Predict what’s going to happen & give the options to control the outcome. The insight to create more certainty & competitive advantage.

As an analyst, you must be willing to be open and have the willingness to adapt your beliefs based on evidence or, indeed, even a lack of evidence. Lack of evidence can require the application of intelligence tools and thinking to understand further what’s happening. And then proving all the options are wrong, revealing that the single option must, therefore, by definition, be right. In reality, of course, there is typically more than one option left open, and usually, it is never quite as simple as an academic paper exercise. Whatever, though, remember, evidence or no evidence, it is your duty to keep an open mind throughout the whole process.

Cognitive Biases in Thinking

We, humans, tend to be hard-wired to favour our existing and enshrined beliefs, making accepting new and different ideas difficult. 

Cognitive biases can include confirmation biases as well as forms of desirability bias and can prevent us from accepting additional inputs that may go against our existing beliefs. So by definition, confirmation bias plays its hand when we seek evidence confirming our own existing beliefs whilst avoiding any pesky contradictions, facts or data. Naturally, such bias can be very dangerous. 

So this brings us to a gnarly oldie, desirability bias. This is when decisions tend to be made based on what we desire rather than what is actually true or accurate. It can be somewhat like when your favourite football team has lost, and when asked about the result, your immediate retort is that ‘they played well and should have won”. Of course, an impartial spectator would most likely disagree with your statement and reflect that it is clearly biased. So it’s critical to be aware of such a cognitive bias when thinking like a competitive intelligence analyst.

It is critical to challenge these biases to remain open-minded and become a better problem solver, which is all the more important in today’s complex and fast-changing world.

Intellectual Humility for Understanding

It remains just as important to retain a sense of intellectual humility to better benefit from fully comprehending someone else’s point of view, involving the need to recognise in yourself any shortfall of knowledge pertaining to an issue or subject. Of equal significance is your ability to admit mistakes without any nagging sense of embarrassment. So when approaching a situation with humility opens up possibilities for insight, growth and learning. Why should this be? Well, it releases you from any preconceived notions about any or all aspects of the process. As an analyst, it is paramount never to hide mistakes or deny that you may be wrong. This tends to not usually end well, so keeping an open mind is still easily the best course of action. In military circles, such a mindset can result in deaths and missed strategic opportunities. This is another article surrounding this subject.

Strategies for thinking like an intelligence analyst 

One can adopt many strategies to think and act like a high-performing analyst. The main strategies are as follows: 

  • Develop critical thinking skills through practice and learning. This helps you question assumptions and seek evidence before forming conclusions about something. 
  • Engage in meaningful conversations with others to gain insight into their point of view. Further, allowing you to grow by understanding different perspectives than your own. 
  • Questioning your own beliefs helps identify any false assumptions that may have been made. Allowing you to recognise potential errors in your way of thinking so they can be corrected moving forward.

Being wrong is, of course, a natural part of life, and it is healthy not to fear it. Smart people tend to recognise this and embrace those inevitable times where being wrong is an opportunity for advancement and growth, understanding that mistakes are simply part of the journey to success. One has to be courageous with the confidence to learn from events and circumstances. With each step taken, seek to take away something valuable towards betterment. Developing greater resilience and having an open mind for new ideas will exponentially deliver results. It is also provident to accept in good spirits that being wrong can itself be a virtue that helps propel future pathways to success.

How to embrace wrongness is a critical skill

Be mindful and diligent, though, to remember that it is important not to too critical if a colleague or partner makes a mistake in judgement or interpretation. Being a good Listener as to how they came to their conclusions and allowing them to learn from it will always pay dividends. Keep in mind that training may be required if mistakes become more frequent. Take as much responsibility as they do for the circumstances and work together to fix and improve the environment, systems or practices to assist them better.

By having the courage to challenge assumptions and dig deeply into research while being open-minded towards new ideas will always force multiply your ongoing success.

How to embrace wrongness within competitive intelligence to help your thinking skills

In conclusion, adopting a ‘Jack Ryan’ mindset and thought process demands open-mindedness towards new information and ideas, even (or especially) if they challenge current beliefs. Knowing how people typically react when presented with something unfamiliar and recognising cognitive biases that prevent us from accepting things that contradict our viewpoint will enable solid progress to be enjoyed. Undoubtedly the willingness to embrace intellectual humility to understand other perspectives and viewpoints is paramount. Remember, whilst doing so, to allow room for growth and constantly practice the development of critical thinking skills and awareness. By applying these key elements, anyone can think and operate like an analyst.

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