Spies Like… Your Coworkers

“Oh. Uh, will you hold my wallet for me while I take the test, please? There’s a thousand dollars in there… or maybe there isn’t. Know what I mean?”
– E. Fitz-Hume

Spies Like Us I don’t know about you, but if I had the skills, the talent, and the looks to be a suave international spy like James Bond, I’d totally do it. But as it turns out, I’m more suited for the business world.

Perhaps Jami Miscik is too. She’s the former Deputy Director of Intelligence for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), most known for failing to provide adequate warning about 9/11 and delivering the news of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq to the Bush Administration.

She’s now working at Lehman Brothers (LEH) as the Global Head of Sovereign Risk. Or, an “uber-analyst and seer”, according to CNNMoney.com. Is that smart?

Last fall, when North Korea’s nuclear test rattled global markets, the folks at Lehman were calmer than most; Miscik had forewarned them and explained how it could play out peacefully. Last December, when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s brash reelection rhetoric was publicly dismissed as idle boasting, Miscik told the Monday-morning gathering, “He really means this.” She predicted an acceleration of his program to nationalize industries: “He’ll be doing things bigger, bolder, and faster than even his closest allies in government expect.” She was right.

In the eyes of her Lehman colleagues, she’s largely redeemed herself. “Her information is infinitely better than the information you can get anywhere else that I know of,” says Lehman president Joe Gregory. Adds Kathy Cassidy, treasurer of General Electric (GE): “She doesn’t bring notes and she doesn’t have charts! Everyone else who comes to see us has charts. But she doesn’t seem to need them.”

(BTW, I love that charts quote. “Everyone else who comes to see us has charts.” Ha! That’s such a corporate-world line.)

The contrast of the political and business worlds here is interesting. I don’t know exactly how responsible Miscik is, personally, for the 9/11 and WMD blunders. Maybe there were political influences involved. Maybe the wrong conclusions were drawn by the Bush Administration. Maybe… I dunno, pick your favorite conspiracy theory.

What is interesting is how the business world has embraced her expertise. Corporations are generally more efficient than political organizations. They are also able to take greater risks. Perhaps this means they are able to absorb, asses, and act on geopolitical intelligence better than governments as well.

“In government, geopolitical risk is a bad thing,” [Miscik] explains. “Here at Lehman, people are risk takers. They want to understand the situation and the smart risk to take, because smart risk is opportunity.”

What’s this mean for businesses? Maybe we should hire more spies. Or adopt some of the CIA’s practices (like in the book CIA, Inc.). That’ll probably be the closest I’ll ever get to being James Bond.

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.