With all the investment in technology, are we forgetting the basics?

By Nadia Tuominen, an experienced Investigations analyst and trainer who runs New Insight Analysis training.

Law enforcement technology has come on leaps and bounds over recent years.  Gone are the boxy old computers that stuck around far longer than they should have.  Working from home has moved from an impossible dream to a widespread reality thanks to Virtual Private Networks.  

And tears of frustration from using outdated Microsoft applications to analyse big data have been wiped away with the introduction of incredible new software.

Constabularies up and down the country, and indeed around the world, invest thousands of pounds in technology; the purchase, the upkeep, and the associated training.  But in the race to keep up with technological advancements the most amazing kit of all remains somewhat neglected. 

I am, of course, talking about the human brain. 


Our own minds tend to be considered the poor, distant relation to things such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.  When we hear ‘supercomputer’, we visualise a complicated green microchip rather than a soft, pinkish-grey mass.  And yet, when it comes to energy efficiency and breadth of ability, our brains outperform even the best super and quantum computers.


Whether you are a PC or a DCI, intelligence or response, officer or staff, we all use our brains to make difficult decisions in stressful situations, every single day. In those fast-paced kidnap, blue light, and firearm incidents your neurons are firing so fast you reach conclusions before even knowing how you got there. 

When investigating homicides, robberies, and human trafficking, you’re calling the shots in ways that ultimately affect people’s lives, their freedom, and safety.  Technology might help us get there, but it is us human beings piecing together the puzzles and making the decisions.


Just as an athlete needs to train hard, train smart, and live healthy to maintain peak performance, so we need to do for our brains.  Making the most of your mind’s ability means getting to know how it works, how it is vulnerable, and the different factors that affect performance. 

Only then can you identify room for improvement and opportunities for fine tuning.  Although training does exist in these areas, largely under the banners of ‘critical thinking’ and ‘resilience’, they are traditionally viewed as low priority soft skills.  It’s time we turn the tide and recognise that investment in the maintenance of our own internal supercomputers is far from soft, but in fact the cornerstone of effective decision making. 

Fortunately, even without the availability of official training, there are things you can do to exercise your mind:

  • Proactively challenge your thinking and reasoning skills

Play along with a gameshow like on Netflix, for simple, lateral thinking fun.Or read a book like by Dan Gardner & Philip Tetlock to get you re-evaluating the way you approach problem solving.

  • Actively maintain a resilient mind

Look out for factors that interfere with your thinking and identify those that help.Seek ways to control these elements and reduce or increase them, as necessary.Make time for the things that make you happy and clear your mind.

  • Learn new skills


Free self-study courses exist for all kinds of topics. The Open University’s ‘FutureLearn’, for example, offers several options including Mindfulness and Logical Reasoning.


Whatever the approach, in a world of globalisation, information overload, and constant distraction, we need to bring the focus back on ourselves.  Truly understanding yourself, how you think, and why you think the way you do is the foundation of better decision making. 

Technology is, and will undoubtedly always be, an incredible tool in our arsenal.  However, it is just that; a tool deployed by human minds. To keep up with the modern world we have to better train and equip those minds, and ensure they are not neglected in favour of the latest software rollout or hardware development.  It’s time to move away from viewing thinking skills as ‘soft’ and start recognising them for what they are.  Essential.


Food for Thought workshop – booking open now.

Nadia is the founder of the CPD accredited workshop “Food for Thought – Thinking Skills in the Modern Age”, an innovative approach to improving critical thinking and decision-making skills.

To book an online workshop at the special price of £899* for up to 12 delegates, or for further information, visit www.newinsightanalysis.com/food-for-thought-workshop or contact nadia@newinsightanalysis.com

*Bookings to be made on or before 31 December 2020.  One special offer booking per organisation.

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