July 2012 - Security Forward, the risk & intelligence forum, met at the offices of Z/Yen on 18 July. As usual, we began with round table introductions, where each participant shares their key risks. This time, concerns over China were consistently highlighted. Moving forward, the first presentation was given by our resident ‘senior advisor’ and intelligence analyst, Lt Col Crispin Black MBE MPhil, “The Plague of the Abilene Paradox - Security Decision Making in an Uncertain World”. This talk questioned the dangers of a group of people assuming that they are all in agreement about a course of action. In many cases there are subtle differences in each person’s mind as to how a decision was arrived at, what it is, what actually took place and the level of enthusiasm of other members of the group. Despite in-depth assessment of a situation, it is still possible to get it terribly wrong. Crispin gave various examples and the lessons learned in each case, particularly situations which differ dramatically on the ground as opposed to sitting in a comfortable office. As always, Crispin’s talk generated a lively discussion.
Our second speaker was John Deverell CBE MPhil, formerly Head of Global Security at Invensys and now Chief Executive of Keyhaven. John gave a talk entitled “Cultural Intelligence - Doing Business in Unstable Regions”. John explored shared concepts of the way in which we view the world, and the dangers of assuming that others use the same thought process as we do. Cultural insight and understanding context are critical to identifying threats and managing crises. Once again the discussion ranged widely. As both presentations were highly interactive, much of the added value came from the broad experience and expertise of the participants. Before more conversation over dinner, and in what is becoming a Security Forward cocktail tradition, the team had a well-earned stop in the bar for a round of Martinis, in celebration of one of Crispin’s Abilene Paradox lessons as Giovanni Martini is best known as the only survivor from George Armstrong Custer's company in the Battle of Little Big Horn.