The Human Factor

Andrew Bustamante | October 27, 2019

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Greetings EverydaySpy,

The desert weather here in UAE is finally cooling down! And with the break in heat, neighbors are going outside to finally meet one another.

When my family and I relocated to UAE in June 2019, we had to adapt quickly to summer in the desert. 

It was 41℃ (105℉) by 10am every day and often exceeded 44℃ (113℉) by 2pm. For weeks on end, nobody went outside except at night.

We moved into a community that was well established, but we rarely saw anyone around us. Except for the crowded shopping malls and grocery stores, my wife and I felt like we were living in a ghost town. 

Hollywood likes to make spying look like a one-man sport. 

In reality, espionage requires community. 

CIA trainees learn as a cohort – a group of students that progress through all phases of training together. We become fiercely loyal to one another, dedicated to seeing every person in the cohort finish training together. 

When we lose one person in training, we feel the pain of failure. When we lose someone in the field, we feel the pain of loss.

While spies are capable of operating alone, every operation starts with a team.

Teams of operators turn into a cohort. We plan together, prep together, and protect each other. We share everything and learn from one another’s mistakes and successes.

By the time we deploy downrange, cohorts have become communities. Teams have become friends. And everyone benefits from an invisible factor…

The human factor. 

The human factor is the advantage that comes when people invest in each other. 

  • When they invest their time, talent, and energy.
  • When they share their knowledge, fears, and flaws.
  • When they realize that success is the only option.

And field operators respect and believe in the human factor for one important reason… 

Not every teammate makes it back home. 

The human factor is the one factor that keeps us going when all else seems lost. Because every member of our community counts. 

  • Their loved ones become our loved ones. 
  • Their legacy becomes our legacy. 
  • They deserve the best we have to offer.

As cooler temperatures bring neighbors together across the Middle East, I see the human factor at work.

Children bring sun-faded playgrounds back to life. People meet for the first time with smiles and handshakes. Families start to becoming friends.

My wife and I enjoy watching our children make new friends. But we know that our community is much larger than those living to our left and right.

Our cohort is worldwide. It exists in-person and online. 

Our cohort is you, #EverydaySpy.

You and anyone else who reads this article, listens to the Everyday Espionage Podcast, or follows @EverydaySpy on social media. 

I am proud to invest in you and I am humbled by the time and energy you put into me.

I recently put out an online survey that explored how EverydaySpy.com was impacting your everyday life. I was blown away by the response! Folks not only told me what was working, but they told me exactly what they wanted to learn next. 

And along the way, I saw the human factor grow in my new cohort.

Surveys (also called ‘polls’) are notoriously problematic.

History is full of examples where survey results were inconsistent with popular opinion:

  • When Rick Rolling’s ‘Never gonna give you up’ became the theme song for Shea Stadium in New York (2008).
  • When William Shatner named one of Pluto’s newly discovered moons ‘Vulcan’ (2013).
  • Americans still debate the 2016 election of President Trump and his surprise victory over poll predictions.

But despite the challenges of polling, we still rely on surveys. Why? 

Because of the human factor.

Surveys are a proven method to hear voices that might otherwise go unheard. They are a way to hear a community speak. They are a tool for sharing knowledge and experience. 

Here is a glimpse of what my EverydaySpy survey told me:

While these results are valid, they do not reflect everyone’s opinion. 

Online surveys only average between 10%-12% response rates. 

That means 90% of the people who saw my survey did not complete it. That’s the trouble with surveys.

Surveys only highlight the voice of those people who complete the survey – a small subset of the whole. The human factor is absolutely present in surveys, but it is limited. People invest, but only a few.

And to increase the value (and accuracy!) of the survey results, you have to increase participation.

Online reviews are another way to see the human factor in everyday life.

83% of people openly admit that they do not trust advertising but do trust online reviews. 

72% of people say they look at online reviews before they decide to purchase. 

Unlike surveys/polls, online reviews have much higher participation rates across all age groups.

  • 47% of people aged 16-24 have written online reviews.
  • 52% of people aged 25-34 have written online reviews.
  • 45% of people aged 35-54 have written online reviews.
  • 28% of people aged 55-64 have written online reviews.

Online feedback is the equivalent of an operational ‘After Action Report’ (AAR). Just like elite operators sit together after a mission to talk about mistakes, successes, and performance, online reviews are an AAR for customers. 

The Everyday Espionage Podcast turns 1 year old on November 17, 2019. Here is what online reviews tell me about the podcast:

Just like surveys, these reviews only reflect a portion of the listening audience. But the human factor is strong, encouraging me to keep producing espionage content that applies to everyday life.

The legend of the self-made man is exactly that – a legend, a myth. 

Community is the only way to build anything of value. 

Your voice matters. Your opinion counts. 

You are a part of a community – a cohort – that fiercely supports one another, #EverydaySpy.

Whether you have shared your voice or want to share your voice now, I have a gift for you.

I recently wrote a primer on how professional intel officers use getaway vehicles. The primer has not yet been released.

I want to give this primer to anyone who participates in my online survey or leaves an online review for the Everyday Espionage Podcast.

If you want to know the ins-and-outs of a professional getaway, due to duress or natural disaster, send me an email (info@EverydaySpy.com) and tell me whether you completed the survey, an online review, or both!

I’m excited to have you in my cohort, and I want to share what I’ve learned with you. 

Thank you for being part of the mission.

Godspeed, #EverydaySpy

Author: Andrew Bustamante, Founder of www.EverydaySpy.com. Andrew is a former covert CIA Intelligence officer, decorated US Air Force Combat Veteran, and respected Fortune 500 senior advisor. Learn more from Andrew on his Podcast (The Everyday Espionage Podcast) and by following @EverydaySpy on your favorite social media platform.

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