CommonSense Blog

Learnings from the CIA

By Lisa Neiss | Sep 14, 2015

W2O’s London #PreCommerce Summit is on a roll. We are being exposed to the brilliant minds of the world’s leading innovators, digital leaders and thinkers, as well as their thoughts on how we live, work and play in a digital age.

However for me, there is one takeaway that underlies all speakers’ presentations, but which was voiced most prominently by Cynthia Storer, a former CIA analyst and current star of Channel 4’s Hunted:

No matter what your venture or organisation is, you need to have the right people involved in order to extract the insights.

During her talk, Cynthia stressed the sheer amount of data she received to solve the ‘jigsaw puzzle’ of her mission when she was working as a CIA analyst. The organisation was collecting tonnes of data, all through the help of new tools and methods. Yet the question was how to go about figuring out what’s going on. According to Cynthia, the information she was confronted with, resembled a bowl of spaghetti. Not just spaghetti, but potentially unreliable spaghetti. For data science is still in its infancy and we cannot rely on it entirely. It seems to have a mind of its own, and to quote J.K. Rowling: “Never trust anything that can think for itself and you don’t know where it keeps its brain”

Cynthia stressed that an organisation needs a human subject matter expert in every step of the data analysing process an in the end, we DO need all the people, simply all of the people! We need folks who are primary source gatherers and digital data scientist, analysts and more. It is this synergy coming together, and in the case of the CIA, it is this synergy that gets you the bad guy! The work relies on humans and not technology.

Cynthia