Harnessing the investigative mind

elicitationIt is an old joke that if you ask 5 experts you will get 6 opinions. Ha, ha. (or LOL as modern parlance would have it). They cannot all be right of course.

It has been demonstrated by research on expert elicitation that independent interpretations from experts given the same data can be very varied. Once you get experts in a room together they can come to an agreement on a ‘group’ interpretation. Ask them again individually 5 minutes later, and their assessment will have moved away from the agreed position back towards their initial assessment.

In an inspection it is critical to keep an open mind. It is encouraged for inspectors to have individual thoughts, ideas and hypotheses. The communication structures within the team should allow all of these to make it on to the list for investigation. The prioritisation processes of the search logic will place some above others for the allocation of resources, but the inspection won’t end until all of the questions posed have been answered (or the inspection has used its maximum allowance of 130 days).

A fundamental characteristic of the search logic is that it is information-led and does not simply rely on the diverse intuition of experts, nor does it rely on trial-and-error. All ideas go in to the pot, and a rich stew of questions (requests for information from the collective mind of the inspectors) results.

We make no assumptions about the possible presence and location of an underground nuclear explosion (UNE), for example, which reduces the chance of misdirecting the inspection during the early stages. Keeping this discipline throughout the inspection not only keeps the objectivity of the inspection intact, but also ensures that the activities of the inspection are all justified by available facts, and not unjustified hunches. The decisions made by the inspection team can therefore be defended against any allegations of bias or malicious intent.