Supporting Intelligence Analysis Through Visual Thinking

  • Steve Strang
  • Anthony J. Masys
Part of the Advanced Sciences and Technologies for Security Applications book series (ASTSA)


Today’s threat landscape is characterized by uncertainty and complexity stemming from the interconnectivity and interdependence of the hyper-connected world (Masys et al. in Procedia Econ Finance 18:772–779, 2014). Threats stemming from terrorism and transnational crime are more diverse and interconnected thereby calling upon an expansion of the analytic envelope and vocabulary of intelligence. This complex problem space is value-laden, open-ended, multidimensional, ambiguous and unstable and can be labeled as ‘wicked and messy’. Events such as 9/11 highlight “surprising events” that reflect an organizations inability to recognize evidence of new vulnerabilities or the existence of ineffective countermeasures (Woods in Resilience engineering: concepts and precepts, 2006). This necessitates the requirement to readjust to their existence and thereby the need to consider the extremes (Taleb in The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable, 2007), to challenge dominant mindsets and explore the space of possibilities. In Limits of Intelligence Analysis, Heuer (Orbis 49(1):75–94, 2005) argues how limitations in perception, perspective, and resistance to change, as well as understanding and communicating uncertainty all contribute the complexity of intelligence analysis. To support this, Richards (The art and science of intelligence analysis, 2010) argues that key components that support intelligence analysis include: critical thinking, creativity, powers of judgment, and communication. Addressing the unique challenges associated with transnational threats as terrorism and organized crime requires creative and collaborative efforts among key intelligence and security stakeholders that facilitate questioning judgments and underlying assumptions, and employing critical and creative thinking in order to explore the possibility space. This chapter explores the application of ‘visual thinking’ to support the complexity and challenges associated with intelligence analysis.


Visual thinking Intelligence analysis Systems Uncertainty Complexity Visual communication Sensemaking 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Royal Canadian Mounted PoliceOttawaCanada
  2. 2.University of LeicesterLeicesterUK

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