How and Why Unrestrained Self-Interest Cripples Organizations…And Why The Bosses Let It Happen 4

By Chris Simmons

At one time, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) reorganized, combining the Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism entities into a single unit called the Force Protection Division. Concurrent with this merger was the Agency-wide appointment of a “Collection Manager” within every division. The latter initiative was intended to improve the quality and quantity of DIA’s global intelligence collection. The goal was to have a highly-trained specialist in every division to help teach, mentor, and guide analysts. This would allow analysts to write highly-focused “information needs” so the field collectors could get the best possible answers.

I was assigned this duty and my boss gave me the support and free rein to get results. Analysts and collectors are two very different breeds and often have little understanding of the other’s wants and needs. Amazingly, despite this lack of understanding, the success of both groups is absolutely interdependent.

Analysts are ravenous consumers of raw intelligence and they often have insatiable appetites. Unfortunately, they can be lazy — content to write their analytic prose with snippets of juicy intelligence pulled from the torrent of information flowing from their computers. Too make matters worse; all too often they are graded on the volume of their products rather than their quality.

In contrast, collectors often feel like well-fertilized mushrooms because they are ignored and otherwise kept in the dark by analysts. Trained at great expense, these collectors can invest great resources (sometimes at considerable risk) to get the information their portfolio insists the analysts need, only to hear nothing back from headquarters. Imagine how a collector feels when after months of reporting on all manner of topics, they finally receive a message back from Washington. It reads, “I’m giving your last report a grade of C+. Now go get more.”

Collectors are graded on both the quantity and quality of their reporting. The latter comes from the grades they receive from analysts. A good analyst provides a collector with detailed feedback on their report. He/she is told what can be confirmed or refuted, as well as what information is so unique that it’s not known whether its true or not. If reporting on one topic has reached the saturation point, they are told that and redirected towards other pressing needs. A great relationship between an analyst and a collector(s) in the field can lead to some amazing results.

It can also lead to a phenomenon called “capturing the collector.” This occurs when an analyst aggressively feeds a collector with everything needed to generate more focused field reports. It’s not even important that the collector always get good grades, simply that they know somebody values what they do and that they will receive consistent feedback. Understandably, over time, collectors will curtail reporting of areas where they receive no feedback and increase coverage of topics where their hard work is appreciated.

We were blessed in that the Force Protection Division featured a large pool of gifted analysts passionate about the Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism fields. As a result, we – collectively – were able to capture collectors on a scale never previously imagined. We didn’t just bring individual collectors into our fold; we were able to “recruit” entire teams of field reporters.

One year after Collection Managers where established in every analytic division, our office produced 25% of all collection requirements levied by the Agency. Our efforts legitimately redirected a large segment of the Agency’s collectors to work extensively – or exclusively – on our topics. To put this imbalance into perspective, our division constituted just one-quarter of one percent of the entire Agency.

Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)

Furthermore, in one instance, we teamed up with a reportedly underperforming collection base working in what we believed to be a target-rich reporting environment. We promised them we would provide written evaluations on 100% of their reporting on our subjects. We were true to our word and over the next 12 months, this base published over 250 reports on our equities. They were subsequently recognized as “Collector of the Year” which only amplified our global influence.

I always assumed at some point, someone in the hierarchy would tell us to “throttle back.” We were fundamentally shifting the focus of not just our collectors, but other Defense Department collectors too. Those instructions never came. Quite the contrary – DIA’s Collection wing loved that we were taking care of their people. We received similar praise and support from the military services and other national agencies as well.

National Security Agency (NSA)

In a sense, we were totally out of control and the Agency leadership and others could not have been happier. Even the other analytic divisions, whom we assumed would complain because we were reducing their percentage of collection efforts, were happy. After all, they weren’t being constantly badgered to increase the evaluation of field reporting.

Despite my pleasure in our unprecedented successes, a part of me always hoped that an Agency chieftain would one day cite us as the model for all others to emulate and in doing so, increase the depth and breadth of collection across the board. It bothered me that we had co-opted the entire system to do our bidding. It wasn’t rationale, it wasn’t logical, and perhaps, wasn’t in our national interests.

But it was in my self-interest, as well as that of my fellow Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism analysts, our bosses, collectors everywhere and their bosses, and so on and so forth. We justified it by arguing that if other analytic entities were doing their job, we would not have captured so many collectors. To our mind, their lack of effort should not count against us or the noble work of the collectors in the field.

Our de facto control over DIA and large swath’s of the Defense Department’s collection program remained unchecked until the Agency eventually ended the practice of division-level Collection Managers. In the associated reorganization, the Agency also broke apart the Force Protection Division. The Spy-Catchers and “Terrorist Hunters” – two sides of the same coin – became bitter rivals. The outcome was less than optimal….

Indiana Man Accused of Teaching People to Beat Lie-Detector Tests Faces Prison Time Reply

By Matt Zapotosky, Washington Post

In the eyes of federal prosecutors in Virginia, Chad Dixon is a brazen criminal whose misdeeds threatened border security, state secrets and young children across the United States. They say he taught convicted sex offenders and aspiring federal law enforcement officers how to cheat their court- or job-imposed lie detector tests — even when he knew that they planned to use his advice for nefarious purposes.

In the eyes of his supporters, though, Dixon is no more than an electrical worker who did some Internet research on polygraph testing. And for offering instructions sometimes as simple as “relax and breathe normally,” he probably will end up in federal prison.

Dixon, 34, of Indiana, pleaded guilty in December to wire fraud and obstruction of an agency proceeding and is scheduled to be sentenced Friday in federal district court in Alexandria. He is accused of teaching what prosecutors term “polygraph countermeasures” to as many as 100 people across the country — among them convicted sex offenders in the Washington area and undercover agents who told Dixon they would use his techniques to cheat their tests for Customs and Border Protection jobs.

The case has reenergized a national debate on the accuracy of polygraph testing and led to some speculation that federal authorities intend to prosecute those spreading information on how to trick lie detectors. Though Dixon appears to be the first charged publicly, others offering similar instruction say they fear they might be next.

“I’ve been worried about that, and the more this comes about, the more worried I am,” said Doug Williams, a former police polygraphist in Oklahoma who claims to be able to teach people to beat what he now considers a “scam” test.

In court filings, prosecutors said Dixon developed his polygraph countermeasures largely based on materials he took from Williams’s Web site. Williams — who declined to comment on Dixon’s case specifically — has written books and appeared on national television programs criticizing lie detectors and telling people how to beat them.

Teaching about the flaws of polygraph testing is not inherently illegal. The test monitors a variety of physical responses — such as breathing and heart rate — and Williams and others preach that you can manipulate it by artificially provoking a physical reaction when you’re supposed to, and keeping your reactions in check when you’re not.

Whether the measures are effective is a matter of debate. Barry Cushman, president of the American Polygraph Association, said hands-on training, with feedback, on countermeasures has been shown to work sometimes in laboratory settings. But mere instruction, video or written, is unlikely to succeed, he said.

Dixon was charged after he helped undercover agents learn to cheat the test after they told him specifically that they intended to lie as they applied for federal jobs. Nina J. Ginsberg, Dixon’s attorney, wrote in court filings that much of what Dixon did was legal and that prosecutors were using “hyperbole” in describing his crimes.

“While understandably unpopular with law enforcement and other government agencies, polygraph countermeasures training is widely available and unless the person providing the training knows that the countermeasures training will be used to commit a criminal offense . . . it is protected First Amendment speech,” Ginsberg wrote. “Like it or not, providing polygraph countermeasures training, even to the most despicable among us, is not a crime.”

Dixon declined to comment for this story.

According to prosecutors, Dixon charged his customers $1,000 a day or more for hands-on training, advertising on his “Polygraph Consultants of America” Web site that he could help people appear to be truthful on a test, then traveling across the country to meet those interested in his services. Among his 69 to 100 clients from late 2010 to April 2012, prosecutors said, were unqualified applicants for federal law enforcement jobs and convicted sex offenders — including a former English teacher at a middle school in Rockville who was convicted of sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy and had to take polygraph tests as a condition of his parole.

Perhaps the most outlandish examples of Dixon’s training, though, came when undercover federal agents approached him for his services in late 2011 and early 2012. When one agent posing as a Customs and Border Protection applicant told Dixon his brother was a member of the Zetas drug cartel involved in “drugs, extortion, murder [and] kidnappings” — and that he routinely let his brother use his identification — Dixon told him to reference the man only as a “distant relative” and say, “Look, I don’t really know what he’s into,” prosecutors wrote.

Ginsberg wrote in court filings that Dixon trained only between 50 and 70 people and that most of them were preparing for marital fidelity polygraphs. She estimated that there are at least 30 others offering services similar to Dixon’s and that none of them have been charged.

“Mr. Dixon has done nothing that warrants the government’s attempts to make him the poster child for its newly undertaken campaign to wipe out polygraph countermeasures training,” she wrote.

George Maschke, whose Web site offers similar information on the flaws of polygraph testing but does not offer hands-on training, said he was troubled by Dixon’s case. “It seems to me that they’re going after critics of the polygraph and then fabricating a crime to prosecute where there had been no crime to prosecute before,” Maschke said. “Free speech is important, and I don’t think explaining to people how the polygraph works, including its vulnerability to countermeasures, should be criminalized.”

Dixon, a father of four, wrote in a letter to the judge that he was “disgusted” with himself and that he did not realize initially that what he was doing was criminal. He wrote that some of his “countermeasures” were as simple as “to relax and breathe normally on relevant questions.”

“I was so dead set in my mind that this machine was bogus and I think this mind set made me feel that what I was doing wasn’t illegal and wasn’t that bad,” he wrote.

Prosecutors have asked that Dixon serve between 21 and 27 months in prison, though preferably at the “low end” of the range. His sentencing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday.

Strike A Powerful Pose: Posture Can Determine Who’s a Hero, Who’s a Wimp 1

By Sue Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal

Video:  How the ‘Power Pose’ Could Change Your Career

Can how you stand or sit affect your success?

New research shows posture has a bigger impact on body and mind than previously believed. Striking a powerful, expansive pose actually changes a person’s hormones and behavior, just as if he or she had real power.

Merely practicing a “power pose” for a few minutes in private—such as standing tall and leaning slightly forward with hands at one’s side, or leaning forward over a desk with hands planted firmly on its surface—led to higher levels of testosterone and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in study participants. These physiological changes are linked to better performance and more confident, assertive behavior, recent studies show.

Marketing executive Katy Keim used to step back from listeners during presentations or conversations, resting her weight on her back foot with her hands clasped in front of her, twirling her ring. She was often surprised when people asked if she was nervous, says Ms. Keim, chief marketing officer of San Francisco-based Lithium, a firm that builds online communities for clients’ brands. After she began working with a coach to improve her skills and saw herself on video, she realized her posture “was slightly standoffish” and didn’t look strong, she says.

In addition to standing straighter, with her hands at her side, the 5-foot-1 executive began getting up from the table when speaking at meetings. “When I’m sitting at a table of men, I feel petite. Standing up is a dynamic change for me,” she says, sending a message: “I want to command your attention. I want you to get off your BlackBerrys and smartphones and listen to what I have to say.” During a three-hour meeting last week where she made a presentation, she says, she noticed no one picked up a smartphone.

Striking a powerful pose can reduce symptoms of stress, says Dana Carney, an assistant professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. Subjects in a recent study she headed were guided for five minutes into either high-power poses or low-power postures, slumping or leaning back with arms or ankles crossed. They then delivered a videotaped speech before critical evaluators dressed in white lab coats and holding clipboards. Those who had practiced a power pose before the speech showed lower cortisol and fewer outward signs of stress, such as anxious smiles or biting a lip.

Assuming an expansive body position can also increase testosterone, which tends to boost confidence and aggressive behavior, according to another study co-authored by Dr. Carney. Subjects who struck power poses for two minutes had higher testosterone levels later and were more likely to take a gamble when given the chance. Some 86% of high-power posers risked losing $2 they were given in return for a 50-50 chance of doubling it, compared with 60% of low-power posers who took the bet, according to the 2010 study, published in the journal Psychological Science.

Power posing is also linked to improved performance. In another study published last year, led by Amy J.C. Cuddy, an associate professor of business administration at HarvardBusinessSchool, participants who struck power poses for several minutes before beginning a mock job interview received better reviews and were more likely to be chosen for hire—even though the evaluators had never seen them in the poses.

Other research links power posing before a college-entrance exam to improved scores, Dr. Carney says.

Researchers are studying why the effects of the power pose linger after a person returns to a normal, relaxed stance. One theory: It may prompt lingering changes in voice pitch or facial expression.

Most speakers aren’t aware of the signals they send through body language, says Kelly Decker, president of Decker Communications, a San Francisco coaching, training and consulting firm. “We pick up habits, such as walking into a meeting and sitting down with our shoulders slumped, and we don’t even think about it.”

Steven Murray says seeing himself on video last year when he was working with Decker coaches helped him realize that “you’re broadcasting nonverbal information to listeners from the moment you step up to the podium.” Mr. Murray, president of Direct Energy Residential, an energy company based in Houston, says he learned to adjust his posture, leaning slightly forward rather than standing straight upright in the authoritative stance he formerly used as a military officer. “Leaning forward really engages people” and helps get his message across, he says.

Hunching over a smartphone before a meeting or presentation may be self-defeating, because it forces the user into a low-power pose, according to a recent study led by Maarten Bos, then a postdoctoral research fellow at HarvardBusinessSchool. Participants were assigned to complete several tasks on one of four gadgets—a hand-held device, a tablet, a laptop or a desktop. Then, the researcher tested subjects’ willingness to interrupt another person, a power-related behavior. He left each subject alone in the room with instructions to come get him if he didn’t return in five minutes. Subjects who worked on the hand-held device waited significantly longer before interrupting him, compared with those on desktops, and some didn’t come out at all, suggesting their low-power posture sparked feelings of powerlessness.

Breaking old body-language habits takes practice, sometimes years. Pamela Lentz used to wave her hands while speaking on her job as a principal at a management-consulting firm, making some co-workers “think I was too emotional or too passionate,” says Ms. Lentz, a Leesburg, Va., management consultant. She also tended to fold her arms across her chest while listening, drawing criticism that she lacked presence. “It looks as if you are withdrawing from the conversation,” she says. Her body language was holding her back in her career, colleagues told her.

She worked with executive coach Tim Allard on changing her posture and movements. “We wanted her to project calmness and confidence,” says Mr. Allard, co-owner of Odyssey Inc., a Charlottesville, Va., executive and business consulting firm. He videotaped her and, with Ms. Lentz’s permission, asked her subordinates for feedback.

Ms. Lentz began leaning forward and placing her hands firmly on the table when speaking. She also put an elastic band around her wrist and snapped it now and then when her hands were hidden under a table or desk, to remind her to keep them still when she began speaking.

Gradually, as she practiced the new habits, says Ms. Lentz, “I felt more in control, and I was having more impact in the discussions.” She was soon promoted to partner.

Write to Sue Shellenbarger at

Failing to Foresee the Inevitable: How & Why Al Qaeda Turned On Assad 1

By Chris Simmons

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” So thought Syrian President Bashar Assad when he allowed Al Qaeda (AQ) to create and sustain a “Rat Line” funneling a torrent of foreign fighters into Iraq. Now the stream has reversed course and AQ-trained and equipped fighters are flowing into Syria to fight with the Al Nusra Front. Benefitting greatly from the terrorist group’s extensive infrastructure in Iraq, its Syrian-based affiliate has swelled to 6000 fighters since its establishment in January 2012.Not surprisingly; Al Nusra seeks to replace Syria with a Sunni Islamic state.

For nine long years (2003-2011), Assad allowed AQ foot soldiers to fly into Damascus. There they entered an intricate network of safehouses whose staff smuggled them covertly into northeastern Iraq. Assad helped AQ kill Americans to undermine the US effort in Iraq. According to US media sources, no other leader in the Middle East did more to aid AQ operations in Iraq than President Assad. Yesterday The Washington Times cited retired US General John Keane as claiming even Syrian Intelligence was involved with directly helping AQ in its deadly mission.

Now his former “friends” have used their expertise to create the most powerful force within the diverse array of Syrian opposition groups. Combat seasoned, well-armed and disciplined, the Al Nusra Front has already proven itself capable of coordinated operations with other opposition entities. More importantly, AQ has the ability to make things much worse for Assad. US troops have left Iraq and Baghdad’s military does not threaten AQ the way American forces did. Additionally, AQ has increased the resources available for reassignment to Syria by recently freeing many of its captured combatants from Iraqi jails.

For unknown reasons, Assad did not anticipate AQ’s likely responses to a political opening occurring in Syria. In his dangerous game of “Human Chess,” he not only failed to understand his supposed ally, he also focused solely on his next move instead of his next several moves. President Assad never understood that while his self-interest and that of Al Qaeda’s did overlap on the sole issue of killing Americans, their overall interests could not have been more divergent. Their previous collaboration was merely a short-term marriage of convenience and as so often happens, the divorce has proven itself quite messy.

Lie-Detection Made Easy: Using a Single Comment to Get the Truth 1

By Chris Simmons

You will be lied to today, most likely several times. Wouldn’t it be nice to protect yourself against the pervasiveness of everyday deceptions?

You can, with a maneuver known as the squeeze play. This technique uses a single sentence to force your suspected liar into making an unforeseen, split-second decision. The tactic does come with a price, however, as your response to the other person’s lie is itself a lie.

As an overly protective father with two lovely daughters, I may have been guilty of using this practice once or twice over the years. Imagine, if you will, a new beau takes my oldest daughter to the nearby theater. I great them at the door as they return home much later than expected. Before he can say anything, I welcome them back by saying “I figured you’d be late since Route 7 was closed because of a bad accident.”

So begins the squeeze play. I know there wasn’t an accident on the nearby highway. However, it can be a dangerous road, making my statement plausible. Now her prospective suitor has a life-changing decision to make. He can choose wisely and deny seeing my mythical accident before explaining why they are late. Or he can choose poorly and claim it took them forever to find an alternate way home because the accident tied up traffic for miles in all directions.

The squeeze play works in virtually any scenario simply by changing the false data introduced. If the other party correctly notes that your comment is incorrect, you can deftly extract yourself with a simple “I must have misunderstood (misheard, etc)…”

Conversely, if he/she opts to lie, you’ll see two distinct responses. First, they will hesitate deciding how to answer. Secondly, they will either “buy-in” to your false fact or try to change the topic. Regardless of their choice, you always walk away knowing the truth.

Dr. Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability Reply

Brené Brown studies human connection — our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity.

Dr Brown is author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead. Her other bestselling books include The Gifts of Imperfection, and I Thought It Was Just Me.

If You Can’t be a Role Model, be a Bad Example 1

By Chris Simmons

It was a snowy day in Sarajevo as one of my mentors, a brilliant man named Colonel Rik Krauss, discussed recent leadership challenges with me. To illustrate one of his points, he commented, “If you can’t be a Role Model, be a Bad Example.” We laughed at the humor and accuracy of his assessment. Continuing, he observed that “Bad Examples” are actually negative role models. As such, they are teachers. From them we learn what we DON’T want to be/do.

He then noted that being a role model is never a choice. Everyone is a role model to someone. Equally important, he said, “the people to whom you are a mentor are always watching — a mentor is never off the clock.”

Editor’s Note:  Deeper development of the role of negative role models can be found in the July 11th post, “Why Enemies Are more Important Than Friends.”

The Stanford (University) Prison Experiment 3

The Stanford prison experiment was a study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The experiment was conducted from August 14 to 20,1971 by a team of researchers led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo at StanfordUniversity. It was funded by a grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research and was of interest to both the US Navy and Marine Corps in order to determine the causes of conflict between military guards and prisoners.

Twenty-four students were selected out of 75 to play the prisoners and live in a mock prison in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. Roles were assigned randomly. The participants adapted to their roles well beyond what even Zimbardo himself expected, leading the “officers” to display authoritarian measures and ultimately to subject some of the prisoners to torture. In turn, many of the prisoners developed passive attitudes and accepted physical abuse, and, at the request of the guards, readily inflicted punishment on other prisoners who attempted to stop it. The experiment even affected Zimbardo himself, who, in his capacity as “Prison Superintendent”, lost sight of his role as psychologist and permitted the abuse to continue as though it were a real prison. Five of the prisoners were upset enough by the process to quit the experiment early and the entire experiment was abruptly stopped after only six days. The experimental process and the results remain controversial. The entire experiment was filmed, with excerpts made publicly available.

Want to Know What Someone Really Thinks? Reply

By Gretchen Rubin, PsychCentral

The other weekend, I was trying to remember something I’d read in Tyler Cowen’s book, Discover Your Inner Economist: Using Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist. And I looked it up — so interesting!

Sometimes when we ask a question, we know that people might be reluctant to give a true opinion. Maybe they’re worried about angering someone else, or appearing unsophisticated, or admitting what they actually think or do. Tyler Cowen made an observation that I think is absolutely fascinating, and one that provides one clever solution to this non-disclosure problem. Click through to read what it is.

He writes:

“To get a person’s real opinion, ask what she thinks everyone else believes… If people truly hold a particular belief, they are more likely to think that others agree or have had similar experiences.

For instance, if a man has had more than thirty sexual partners, he will more likely think that such behavior is common. After all, his life is one ‘data point,’ and that data point presumably weighs heavily in his mind. Furthermore the man with more than thirty partners probably knows a higher percentage of other people with thirty partners or more. This will further encourage him to make a high estimate of how many partners other people have had…

[People] tend to assume that other people have had life histories at least somewhat similar to their own. When we talk about other people, we are often talking about ourselves, whether we know it ourselves.”

So imagine that you’re considering sending your children to a particular school. Asking your friend, “What complaints do parents have about the school?” instead of asking, “How do you like the school?” might elicit a better answer.

Or maybe you’re considering going to a particular doctor. A person might not want personally to express criticism, but if you said, “How do most patients feel about that doctor’s office?” you might hear more.

This sounds surprising, but imagine how you would answer questions such as, “Do you think most people get along well with their in-laws?” “Do you think most people cheat on their taxes?” “Do you think most people love music?” “Do you think most people go to sleep after midnight?” Isn’t your inclination to respond with an answer that’s true for you? And yet the answer doesn’t feel like self-disclosure!

If this kind of thing interests you, you might also enjoy reading about why a mirror can make you behave better, and five more tips for boosting self-control.