The Learner's Guide to Geospatial Analysis

Building the Knowledge Team


It has often been said that Geospatial Intelligence is a team sport. What does this mean? The Director of National Intelligence’s (DNI) vision for 2015 is one in which intelligence analysis increasingly becomes a collaborative enterprise with the focus of collaboration shifting “away from coordination of draft products toward regular discussion of data and hypotheses early in the research phase.” This is a major change from the traditional concept of geospatial analysis as largely an individual activity. It is driven in part by the growing complexity and need for multidisciplinary input when developing analytic products; the need to share information across organizational boundaries; and the need to identify and explore the validity of alternative hypotheses. It is enabled by advances in social networking practices. It is important to note that team-based analysis brings a new set of challenges comparable to the cognitive limitations and pitfalls faced by the individual analyst. As mentioned previously, geospatial analysis and a “knowledge team” have become inseparable because of the:

  • complexity of space-time problems;
  • requirement for multidisciplinary input;
  • need to share more information more quickly;
  • growing dispersion of expertise, and;
  • need to identify and evaluate the validity of alternative models.

A “knowledge team” is an informal network of individuals devoted to vetting ideas which helps the analyst make better geospatial decisions. A knowledge team is more akin to a debating team than a sympathetic support group. An effective knowledge team:

  • Identifies and shares supporting and contrary information;
  • includes subject matter experts to help address key issues;
  • develops information that can be used for bench marking analysis, and;
  • develops feedback that benefits the analyst problem solving.

Our knowledge team should be a rich mix of individuals meeting the following:

  • Qualities include:
    • Individual thinkers, working in sync, with the combined geospatial skills, technical skills, and domain experience that spans the problem domain.
    • A dynamic, likely conflicted team that expresses alternate perspectives, but still has energy and purpose that propels it forward in achieving its purpose.
    • Individuals willing and responsible for expressing their perspective.
    • The contrast with a group. A group is like a bunch of people on a bus all heading in the same direction driven by the bus driver. People do not talk with each other on the bus. They get on and off as they please. The only commonality is the vehicle.
  • Actions of the team:
    • demonstrate accountability;
    • demonstrate a high order of geospatial awareness;
    • involve conflict;
    • focus on problem-solving including the geospatial perspective;
    • have a formal leader;
    • have informal leaders;
    • are temporary, and;
    • have individual roles that are critical to and subordinate to team goals. "I" is each of the parts that forms the "we" that pull together to make it about the bigger "us."
  • Images that fit teams include:
    • an aircraft carrier, and;
    • a surgical team.