Intelligence is for the SHARP

What are they thinking?

The intelligence community, it appears, is in the market for thinking caps.

In the interest of  improving “reasoning and problem-solving,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has hired some high-level talent to conduct some research into the question of how sharper thinking might help out with the complex problems they face there.

As in all matters governmental, an acronym is born: Strengthening Human Adaptive Reasoning and Problem-solving — SHARP, with a lower-case s on solving to preserve the integrity of the project’s name.

It’s being conducted under the auspices of IARPA — the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity.

Fortunately, they are trying this out on “healthy, high-performing adults” — because who wants unhealthy slugs sifting through our intelligence?

“The importance of adaptive reasoning and problem-solving abilities for success in many of today’s work environments has been thoroughly documented,” Adam Russell, SHARP program manager at IARPA, said in a statement issued today. “Interestingly, some recent research suggests these abilities might be improved in healthy adults, but conclusive proof has yet to be found.”

The SHARP program is designed to “rigorously assess whether innovative combinations of approaches can improve performance in high-performing adults such as those in the Intelligence Community,” the agency explains. “The researchers in this program will not only aim to improve adaptive reasoning and problem-solving, but also to understand how and why certain methods work.”

The results may develop “tools and methods for individuals in order to better accommodate and leverage the natural differences found among people.”

And we thought that was what college was for.

The contract — competitively bid through the BAA (Broad-Agency Announcement) process — goes to Charles River Analytics, Honeywell Corporation and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Stay tuned for the results.

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