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Despite the intelligence community’s (IC’s) unique challenges, the fields of organization theory and political science offer useful insights and cautionary warnings about the organizational side of improving intelligence analysis. The chapters in Part II (Analytic Methods) of this volume mine an array of relevant literature for the best analytic tools to improve intelligence analysis. Here, we turn to a different task: Examining a broad sweep of relevant social science research with an eye to identifying which organizational factors impede or facilitate effective analysis. Worth underscoring, though, is the fact that social science does not offer ready-made instructions about how to make intelligence analytic improvements stick. However, it does offer some useful generalizations that can illuminate the trade-offs and challenges involved to guide more effective implementation.


Organization theory is a wide-ranging, multidisciplinary field that includes sociology, psychology, political science, economics, and professional school fields such as urban planning and management. Although organization theorists tackle vastly different questions using a multitude of methodologies, they all share an interest in understanding how organizations behave, and why. In general, the field’s research is animated by three central issues: (1) how internal organizational structures and features affect organizational outcomes (particularly efficiency and survival); (2) how external factors influence what goes on inside an organization; and (3) how the interaction between internal and external forces shapes an organization’s prospects for survival.

For our purposes, the field offers three insights for improving intelligence analysis, described in the following pages.

Insight #1:
Adopting New Practices Is Difficult Even for Firms

This idea is more important than it sounds. Critics frequently bemoan that government is not run more like a business, and recommend exporting private-sector practices into public-sector bureaucracies (Osborne and Gaebler, 1993; Osborne and Plastrik, 1998). The data show, however, that most businesses are not run like businesses. Consider survival, which is the most rudimentary indicator of firm adaptation (Aldrich, 1999).1 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly a third of the 5.5 million American businesses that existed in 1990 failed within four years (Aldrich, 1999).


As Aldrich points out, such findings most likely understate adaptation failure because they focus only on surviving populations, excluding all of the organizations that never made it past the start-up phase, when survival rates are considerably lower.

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