“Indepth: Iraq United States Senate Select Committe on Intelligence” is a 500 page document criticizing the US intelligence efforts leading up to the invasion of Iraq. While there is a lot of political mumbo jumbo that could be wrought from this document, this isn’t a political blog. So in the interest of pulling some information useful to business out of the report, we will leave the politics for another time.
One of the major issues cited in the paper was bad information being given to management. While this is extremely harmful when the invasion of a country is imminent, it is also a major problem for businesses. Managers can only act on the information they’ve been given. If that information is of dubious accuracy, management can only make bad decisions. Having a reliable source of business information is the key to a company’s success. Business Intelligence (BI) systems have been a major trend in business because of the need for accurate, on time data for the purposes of making timely business decisions.
Group think was a major concern with the intelligence gathering efforts prior to the Iraq war. Group think according to merriam-webster.com is
“a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics”.
The problem with group think is the formation of conclusions that don’t necessarily have a foundation in reality. In this case the purchase of multi-purpose technology led intelligence workers to make assumptions that would not have been made if the intelligence had been properly vetted. We find the same principle in the business world. Group think can lead us to market incorrectly and waste our resources “barking up the wrong tree”. While we have business leaders whose job it is to steer our businesses in the correct direction, the use of business intelligence tools can help minimize the possibility of group think by giving us concrete numbers and trends based on current market conditions as compared to similar conditions in the past.
While this paper had little to do with business, it gives us a good model for comparison and makes a strong case for need to gather reliable information. Many businesses fly by the seat of the CEO’s pants, but with the ever expanding capabilites of business intelligence tools, “gut feeling” business is not longer the norm. Knowing where to put your resources to maximize the return on investment is now more of a science than a swag.