cover of Real World Intelligence


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Meyer's World is fast-paced and smart

Real-World Intelligence © 1991 Herbert E. Meyer

© 2007 Beth Helstien

Get ready: the Community Theatre is producing the play Pack of Lies in February (2007). Based on a true story, a suburban London family in the early 1960s befriends neighbors who are suspected of spying for the Soviet Union. Who is lying? What lies are acceptable? What is betrayal? 

The San Juan Island Library is again sponsoring its program “San Juan Reads” encouraging the entire community to read The Human Factor by Graham Greene. The novel is concerned with many of the same issues as the play: spying for one’s country and the personal consequences of espionage on the lives of the people involved.

The theatre, library and other community members have been working together planning outreach events to enhance the experience of the book and the play.  Along with others on the committee is San Juan Island’s Herb Meyer, the former Vice Chairman of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council during the Reagan Administration.

I’ll probably never see the world the way Herb Meyer does, but his book is well-written and fast paced.  He sounds the same theme as do the instructors at the School of Library and Information Science where I am studying for a master’s degree: information is power! And the only way to make information work for you is organization.

In library school, students are socialized into different values for organizing information (for instance Real-World Intelligence isn’t much concerned with keeping records for posterity), but the concepts of gathering information (collecting), analyzing (classifying) and reporting on (repackaging) intelligence line right up with my curriculum on librarianship. Both the book and my instructors address issues like the tremendous rate of change that we now live with, globalization, and the constant threat of information overload.  To avoid the pitfalls of a rapidly changing world and the inundation of information we are all surrounded by, we need organized approaches to collect and understand the information we need. 

Meyer argues that to succeed, businesses must now pay more attention to intelligence than ever before. Business executives should develop intelligence outfits as part of their business organizations, mimicking government intelligence outfits such as the CIA with intelligence on competitors, markets, new technologies, financial conditions, effects of political decisions on business conditions, etc. The book gives some examples what to do as well as what to avoid.

I found Meyer’s discussion of secrets not only smart and intriguing, but genuinely humane. While he tries to debunk the glamour and intrigue of intelligence work, Meyer only succeeds in piquing my interest in it. Whether you read Real-World Intelligence or not, don’t miss Pack of Lies at the San Juan Community Theatre, and for you many dear readers, the San Juan Island Library has 10 hard back copies and an audio recording of  The Human Factor by that master of the spy story, Graham Greene.

Real-World Intelligence, like all books reviewed here, may be found at the San Juan Island Library.

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