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The Threshing Floor: Transforming Raw Data into Actionable Insight

In an age of big data, it is critical to learn how to see and think clearly in decision-making. In reality, raw data is dumb data if you don’t know what to do with it. It is merely another input in a system full of noise. The fact that everybody assumes everybody else knows what to do with it makes it even harder to address.

Cybersecurity is a good case study. Often with loads of data at their fingertips, security analysts will struggle to articulate value to less-technical supervisors, supervisors will struggle to take action and end-users will remain baffled by the technobabble. This is fundamentally a problem of actionability not availability. So how does raw data become actionable? The answer lies in the intelligence analyst’s toolkit.

Intelligence practitioners are taught that intelligence ≠ information ≠ data. In fact, practitioners see it more clearly as a winnowing process of separating wheat from chaff: raw data processed becomes information, information analyzed becomes intelligence, and intelligence applied becomes insight. Only after the threshing process is finished will you yield something pure and actionable enough to influence desired outcomes.

It is so important to understand how intelligence analyst’s think because it will fundamentally change the way you understand people, data, relationships and the world around you. To learn more about The Threshing Floor, email Graham at

Graham Westbrook (C|EH, Sec+) is the Director of Intelligence & Content at Living Security. He has a B.A. in Intelligence Studies and is an M.S. candidate in Criminal Justice/Forensic Psychology. Graham is an intelligence practitioner at the intersection of cybersecurity and human risk. He has bylines at Russia Direct (RBTH), Leksika, SANS and Living Security, and will be speaking again at RMISC in Denver.

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