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Sometimes highly intelligent people get stuck on a nail about a theory. And they will not budge even when everyone is telling them they are wrong. Something they believe to be true because that’s always been the way or it was how it was taught at university. Just look at the political situation in your country or Brexit. You will see perfectly intelligent people on both sides of an argument fighting and falling out for what they believe.

 

Some even argue their view even when they know, deep down, they are wrong themselves.

Point to the data

They point to the data and use it to argue their point. They ignore information which disagrees with them. And, distort the evidence, try and explain why they are right, and you are wrong. If they are the boss, then it is view easier to push their viewpoint wrong. There are also those who come up with great theories. Then reject immediately upon seeing the first piece of opposing information. What if you have ingrained belief built on unstable foundations of weak data? You are not going to gain any intelligence; you are not going to answer the questions. Amazingly, some people carry on with their plans as it saves face and the effort of having to build a new strategy.

A military example: Market Garden

An excellent example of this occurred in the Netherland in 1944. On the 17th September, the Allies launched Operation Market Garden. Generals sent paratroopers to capture and hold bridges along a 64-mile section of the Rhine. Once the bridges were captured, an armoured spearhead was to smash into the industrial heartland of Germany.

 

It was Intelligence which told the decision-makers that there was a German Panza Division outside the town of Arnhem. And, they could come to the aide of the final bridge. In the film depicting Market Garden, “A Bridge too Far”, the actor playing Brian Urquhart showed an overhead photograph of German tanks hidden under trees.

 

There may have been photographs. But it was Signals Intelligence from Bletchley Park who isolated the German forces. Cancelling or changing the plan at such a late stage of the game was politically and practically very hard to do. Any delays or failures in the plan would see the whole operation fail. The generals were too eager and wanted to downplay bad news.

 

Also, they questioned the interpretation of Intelligence. After all, this SS Division had retreated battered and bruised from the fighting after D Day. So, it must have been weak. Also, Intelligence only confirmed the location of German forces outside Arnhem. But, the British could not use the Dutch the resistance to take a look to see how many tanks were there. They were compromised and not to be fully trusted. Now there will be counter-arguments on why the generals were right not to use the Intelligence. It was a tough decision. And they did not have the benefit of hindsight.

Listing our inbuilt beliefs

And neither do we, so listing our own inbuilt beliefs and biases is an excellent way of increasing the awareness of them and reveal better insight. And, that’s why Competitive Intelligence is best used independently to decision-makers. The truth may not always be popular, but it is still right. And I, for one, would rather make a decision knowing I have the best possible Intelligence to hand.

 

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