Private intelligence is the collection, analysis and exploitation of information, by a non-governmental organization.
Governments use intelligence agencies to determine where the world is going – for example, what is happening in the next 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, etc. Think Jack Ryan, trying to learn which step the bad guy is going to take next, by looking at his past actions.
The difference between private intelligence and private investigation is in the questions they each ask.
People often confuse “private intelligence” with “private investigations” because both are looking for information. Even though they search for the same information, the difference is the intention behind its collection.
While a private investigator will ask who, what, where, when and why, a private intelligence consultant has one more and very powerful question: “so what?“
This tiny question shifts the focus from past events to future events – from how we got here, to how we can get to there.
A private investigator (like Sherlock Holmes) will look for clues about what a person has done.
A private intelligence professional will create a pattern of life to determine what that person will do next.
Where a company would hire an investigator to find out why a building blew up, they would hire an intelligence firm to find out which one would be most likely to get blown up next. More importantly, the intelligence firm could determine the building least likely to be targeted based on current and historical data.
Private intel firms take that “so what”, and use it to make informed assessments about the future.
A special tool called the intelligence cycle is used for this process. You can read more about it in my related post.
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