Criminal Investigations Through the Lens of Complexity & Design Theory

When I was transferred last year to supervise a detective squad, I knew one (1) of my missions was to nurture a mindset that appreciated complexity and design. 

Complexity is a word that most police detectives and analysts use quite frequently. It's usually used to describe criminal cases, trends, or gangs that have a large number of variables. But that's not how I see it. Those would be things that are complicated. Now at the risk of sounding like a Cynefin kool-aid drinker (to which I openly admit that I taste from time to time), please understand that I specifically separate complicated from complex.

A huge financial crimes scheme tends to be more complicated than it is complex. It requires a structured, analytical, methodical mindset to seek and fit the pieces to see the whole puzzle. Detective solve these cases in sorta the same general methods. We even share labels for certain financial schemes that tightly fit specific patterns.

For the detectives out there, you can all …

Presentation Hack: Language That Divides

Imagine the possibilities if you abandon or avoid the terms that divide - and instead focus on the concepts, behaviors, principles. I once moderated an 8-hr workshop about [something] without ever mentioning [the phrase] that I knew would turn off the participants. Late in the day, a high-ranking Police attendee approaches me in private: “This is really similar to [that phrase] that I support....” Me: “Don’t you dare say [that phrase] out loud in this class. You’ll turn the rest of them off.” And then, he realized the obstacle. In the closing remarks for the day, I mentioned [that phrase]. Grumbles all around — with the exception of a few faces who realized what had happened. Trickery? Manipulation? Exploitation?  No. But rather a short explanation on how powerful language is in our:
attraction, adoption, agreeabilityrepulsion, ignorance, dissent

...of a concept just because of the associations that come with the label. You want people to shift their thinking? Know their language. Speak it. Know…

The Teaching Machine

When it comes to moderating workshops on complexity and adaptability, the traditional administrative tools of formal education simply do not fit. 
Heck, even the language doesn't fit. Even in my first sentence, I reference the verb moderate as opposed to teach. And I certainly won't use the verb train in that context! 
One (1) of my workshops is regularly hosted by a government-funded training organization in Illinois. As suspected, all courses they sponsor must include a course syllabus. The format they request includes:
1.         Purpose of Course 2.         Course Overview 3.         Course Goals 4.         Course Prerequisites 5.         Methods of Evaluation 6.         Methods of Instruction 7.         Course References / Bibliography 8.         Course Requirements / Grading Policy 9.         Recommended Instructional Aids 10.       Attendance Policy 11.       Academic Integrity 12.       and then an hour-by-hour outline of course content.
I've been vocal with the administrators in…

When Questions Get Taken Away From You

For some unknown reason, today I thought about a mental exercise we ran on our police SWAT team. The team had (and for those still on it: has) a responsibility for responding to incidents of hostage-taking. 

This exercise was one (1) that I also began running with other teams. It was quite simple, yet was a window right into the minds of the members on the team and in the tactical community in general. 
If you responded to a hostage incident & could only ask one (1) question, what would that one (1) question be?Imagine arriving at a hostage-taking incident. Imagine all the questions you'd have. All the information you'd want. All the specifics. All the facts. It'd be easy to list two (2) dozen questions that could prove vital to the success of saving the hostages. Could you go all-in on a single inquiry? 

Members would share their one (1) question. Inevitably, people changed their minds as they heard more profound, more important questions being shared....and forecasted t…

Reflections On & Top Five (5) Posts from 2018

Dear readers,

In these last days of 2018, I reflect back on this blog. This is the fiftieth (50th) post of the year. That number also includes:

nine (9) Presentation Hack columns,four (4) Weekend Building Blocks recommendations, &one (1) guest post.I operate on and post according to no schedule. When something moves me, I write. I was quite surprised that I averaged just under one (1) post per week. That's a lot for a hobby like this! 

The top viewed posts from 2018?

Probing ComplexityOur Tendencies to Want Things to Be More Complicated or More ComplexPresentation Hack: Your Last Slide(s)RED Teaming: We Cannot Control the BLUE TeamWhen Police Measure What Doesn't Matter
What does 2019 hold for The Illinois Model? 

No idea. But it certainly will not include advertisements or sponsors! I'm not a sell-out. This continues to be a personal labor of learning and sharing. 

I appreciate all of you who continue to share this content on your social media feeds and email lists. I even e…

On Spectrums & Dimensions

When The Illinois Modelbegan to take form in the early 2000s police SWAT community in Chicagoland, it didn't take long for me to see a need to add depth and breadth. The very original form was a sense-making and tactical decision-making framework for police officers, 

The earliest form prioritized situational awareness, goal-setting, planning, & implementation. I've slowly transitioned this tiered pyramid below to one (1) axis in a multi-dimensioned model - as indicated by the blue axis above.

I've written quite a bit on this version or dimension of The Illinois Model. I refer to it often as the Strategy axis, where we link Why with How...or goals with tactics. 
When the framework began gaining popularity outside the policing context, I saw that the operating environments should be more clearly articulated. Enter the Predictability axis, where we discuss the controllability, knowability, or repeatability of a situation. We address constraints and the perpetual tension b…

OODA: Magic, Mental Models, & Fake Orgasms

Even though they can be seen as pure entertainment, I can't stand magicians or haunted houses. They manipulate and put all their effort into masking reality. They can't be trusted. 

(Yeah yeah. I need to lighten-up.)

US Air Force Colonel John Boyd is well-known for his OODA "loop." I internally cringe most every time I add "loop" after OODA, as only is bastardized four (4)-phase version is truly a cyclical loop. Boyd's original slide is a tad more beefy than that:

Boyd's complete, unperverted OODA contains often forgotten about forward-feeding (right-pointing) pathways and feedback (left-pointing) pathways. These pathways don't necessarily cycle or progress in the sequential Observe-Orient-Decide-Act order like those abbreviated models you may have seen in business blogs. 

We are continually recalling, refining, and creating decisions. Our brain picks apart our environment and situation...and builds options and new ideas for us to put into play. We …

The Lines We Draw Around Systems

An internal combustion engine is a system. It requires air, fuel, electrical impulses, exhaust outlet, and a finite number of interconnected parts. We can't draw an imaginary boundary around an engine unless the fuel tank lay inside it.

An engine by itself is just a novelty. It's useless unless linked up with some other system that needs movement. Like a lawnmower blade. Or a train locomotive. Or factory machinery. Or an automobile transmission.

(THOUGHT: Transmission. That word fits so perfectly. It transmits from one (1) thing to another.)

When we drop that engine into a Ferrari, we expand the system. It now includes the whole car.

When the driver gets behind the wheel, we expand the system. Some, including myself, will say it becomes complex at this point. The human element brings unpredictability into the Car + Driver system.

When the driver pulls out onto the closed test track, we expand the system to include roadway conditions and weather.

When we use the car to bring us…