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Work Like a Spy: Business Tips from a Former CIA Officer

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“The book you are holding will fundamentally change the way you look at the collection, compartmentalization, analysis, distribution, application, and protection of intelligence in your business. J. C. Carleson’s presentation of years of spy tradecraft will make you a more effective force within your organization.” —James Childers, CEO, ASG Global, Inc. When J. C. Carleson l “The book you are holding will fundamentally change the way you look at the collection, compartmentalization, analysis, distribution, application, and protection of intelligence in your business. J. C. Carleson’s presentation of years of spy tradecraft will make you a more effective force within your organization.” —James Childers, CEO, ASG Global, Inc. When J. C. Carleson left the corporate world to join the CIA, she expected an adventure, and she found it. Her assignments included work in Iraq as part of a weapons of mass destruction search team, travels throughout Afghanistan, and clandestine encounters with foreign agents around the globe. What she didn’t expect was that the skills she acquired from the CIA would be directly applicable to the private sector. It turns out that corporate America can learn a lot from spies—not only how to respond to crises but also how to achieve operational excellence. Carleson found that the CIA gave her an increased understanding of human nature, new techniques for eliciting informa­tion, and improved awareness of potential security problems, adding up to a powerful edge in business. Using real examples from her experiences, Carle-son explains how working like a spy can teach you the principles of: Targeting—figuring out who you need to know and how to get to them Elicitation—a subtle way to get the answers you need without even asking a question Counterintelligence—how to determine if your organization is unwittingly leaking information Screening—CIA recruiters’ methods for finding and hiring the right people The methods developed by the CIA are all about getting what you want from other peo­ple. In a business context, these techniques apply to seeking a new job, a promotion, a big sale, an advantageous regulatory ruling, and countless other situations. As Carleson writes, “In a world where infor­mation has a price, it pays to be vigilant.” Her book will show you how.


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“The book you are holding will fundamentally change the way you look at the collection, compartmentalization, analysis, distribution, application, and protection of intelligence in your business. J. C. Carleson’s presentation of years of spy tradecraft will make you a more effective force within your organization.” —James Childers, CEO, ASG Global, Inc. When J. C. Carleson l “The book you are holding will fundamentally change the way you look at the collection, compartmentalization, analysis, distribution, application, and protection of intelligence in your business. J. C. Carleson’s presentation of years of spy tradecraft will make you a more effective force within your organization.” —James Childers, CEO, ASG Global, Inc. When J. C. Carleson left the corporate world to join the CIA, she expected an adventure, and she found it. Her assignments included work in Iraq as part of a weapons of mass destruction search team, travels throughout Afghanistan, and clandestine encounters with foreign agents around the globe. What she didn’t expect was that the skills she acquired from the CIA would be directly applicable to the private sector. It turns out that corporate America can learn a lot from spies—not only how to respond to crises but also how to achieve operational excellence. Carleson found that the CIA gave her an increased understanding of human nature, new techniques for eliciting informa­tion, and improved awareness of potential security problems, adding up to a powerful edge in business. Using real examples from her experiences, Carle-son explains how working like a spy can teach you the principles of: Targeting—figuring out who you need to know and how to get to them Elicitation—a subtle way to get the answers you need without even asking a question Counterintelligence—how to determine if your organization is unwittingly leaking information Screening—CIA recruiters’ methods for finding and hiring the right people The methods developed by the CIA are all about getting what you want from other peo­ple. In a business context, these techniques apply to seeking a new job, a promotion, a big sale, an advantageous regulatory ruling, and countless other situations. As Carleson writes, “In a world where infor­mation has a price, it pays to be vigilant.” Her book will show you how.

30 review for Work Like a Spy: Business Tips from a Former CIA Officer

  1. 4 out of 5

    Breakingviews

    By Martin Langfield James Bond fans would expect a former spy’s book of business tips to offer a crash-course in whiz-bang gadgetry, car chases and stealing secrets. Intelligence nerds might want to read about working the “dark side” through Dumpster-diving, coercion and other black arts. J.C. Carleson’s book “Work Like a Spy” smartly does neither. Instead, she mostly concentrates on the psychological and behavioral tricks that intelligence officers use to winkle out secrets. Carleson, who worked By Martin Langfield James Bond fans would expect a former spy’s book of business tips to offer a crash-course in whiz-bang gadgetry, car chases and stealing secrets. Intelligence nerds might want to read about working the “dark side” through Dumpster-diving, coercion and other black arts. J.C. Carleson’s book “Work Like a Spy” smartly does neither. Instead, she mostly concentrates on the psychological and behavioral tricks that intelligence officers use to winkle out secrets. Carleson, who worked for the CIA’s clandestine service for eight years, clearly has a terrific book in her, though “Work Like a Spy” is only intermittently it. The book waters down some clandestine techniques till they seem merely bland. Others, though, fizz with insight, and the dabs of color and adventure she throws in, from her time in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to her stint in Iraq looking for non-existent weapons of mass destruction, add drama and exoticism. The reader longs for more of this stirring stuff. Carleson explains that much intelligence work is in fact more like the average workplace than a Hollywood adventure film. Workers and businesses can learn from CIA tricks of the trade – at least the legal ones. Among the tips she provides are: how to elicit useful information about rival firms or workplace colleagues using CIA source-cultivation techniques; how to set up meetings to foster the most favorable outcome; how to build networks of informants at all levels of an organization to maximize good information; how to target potential “defectors” or key rivals one would like to hire away; how to minimize the risk of being spied on by rivals; and some handy CIA approaches to negotiation. Carleson even includes some exercises to try in the workplace. She makes it sound easy. “There is information for the taking that can change the entire playing field for you and your organization,” she writes. Sometimes this is no more than clever tactics: “asking the right people the right questions in the right way.” Sometimes it sounds a little underhand, requiring “manipulation of individuals and exploitation of … vulnerabilities.” But Carleson makes clear, repeatedly, that she does not endorse effective but illegal techniques such as bribery and hacking. At least, not in the business world. Actually, some of the book’s high points come in passing. It is refreshing to read that the agency’s field employees can be heard referring to headquarters at Langley as the “Death Star.” She also says that CIA officers are regularly required to undergo excruciatingly detailed questioning about their personal lives while wired to polygraphs. She stops short of recommending that management technique for business. The gap between the CIA and the corporate world is wide enough that Carleson’s approach risks bathos, as when an anecdote of adventures in exotic climes after 9/11 demonstrates the importance of “empowerment”. Yet she shows a pleasing disdain for business buzzwords and mostly stays on the right side of cliché. Carleson’s most surprising claim, at least for some readers, may be that ethics are at the core of effective espionage. It would be interesting to see if her fiction - a thriller, “Cloaks and Veils,” came out last year – shows the same high moral tone. In any case, she argues that any good operator, whether spook or business leader, inspires trust. While there are many firms out there that will indeed dive into trash bins and dig up dirt on the opposition, Carleson says that the higher road, in the end, is more effective than the seedy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jean V. Naggar Literary

    J C Carleson draws on her eight years of service in the CIA to create a model for a successful business in her new book, 'Work Like A Spy.' 'Work Like A Spy' blends the clandestine and the corporate world, covering a wide variety of topics, ranging from eliciting information to recruiting employees to maintaining a high level of company security. The layout of the book reads like a briefing; first outlining the clandestine approach with often thrilling anecdotes from her time in the CIA before m J C Carleson draws on her eight years of service in the CIA to create a model for a successful business in her new book, 'Work Like A Spy.' 'Work Like A Spy' blends the clandestine and the corporate world, covering a wide variety of topics, ranging from eliciting information to recruiting employees to maintaining a high level of company security. The layout of the book reads like a briefing; first outlining the clandestine approach with often thrilling anecdotes from her time in the CIA before moving on to the application of these skills in the business sector. Carleson's analysis of techniques employed by one of the most efficient organizations in the world provides a refreshing perspective on business management; we learn how to respond in a crisis through the CIA's reaction to 911, and of the importance of flexibility and adaptability through Carleson's experiences in Iraq. The book is instantly engaging, and a good proportion of the skills taught are applicable in everyday life, as well as in the business world; through simple (yet fun!) exercises detailed in the book, you are able to hone powers of analysis and deduction. 'Work Like a Spy' will undoubtedly entertain and enlighten its readers, providing both valuable business lessons and a fascinating insight into the life of a CIA agent. Bella, Winter 2013 Intern at JVNLA

  3. 4 out of 5

    Niena Aniesza

    Rating 3.5/5 Mungkin bagi yang tak biasa dengan kerja-kerja penyiasatan dan perisikan akan berasa agak sukar untuk kaitkan contoh dalam dunia perisikan yang diberikan oleh penulis terhadap dunia kerjaya. Namun pada saya, teori dan pengalamannya masih bersifat praktikal. Lagipun, kebanyakan daripada kita sudah terbiasa didedahkan dengan kisah spy dari filem Hollywood (walaupun penulis mendakwa kaedah perisikan yang dipaparkan dalam filem Hollywood adalah 98% tidak tepat). Suatu masa dahulu, saya pe Rating 3.5/5 Mungkin bagi yang tak biasa dengan kerja-kerja penyiasatan dan perisikan akan berasa agak sukar untuk kaitkan contoh dalam dunia perisikan yang diberikan oleh penulis terhadap dunia kerjaya. Namun pada saya, teori dan pengalamannya masih bersifat praktikal. Lagipun, kebanyakan daripada kita sudah terbiasa didedahkan dengan kisah spy dari filem Hollywood (walaupun penulis mendakwa kaedah perisikan yang dipaparkan dalam filem Hollywood adalah 98% tidak tepat). Suatu masa dahulu, saya pernah diberitahu oleh seorang wakil rakyat, "Belajar untuk memahami apa yang orang cakap, dan apa yang orang tak cakap." Buku ini ada menerangkan tentang cara mendapatkan maklumat tersembunyi secara halus. Satu teknik yang diterangkan dalam buku ini adalah mengenai 'profiling' iaitu cara mengenalpasti karakter dan personaliti seseorang. Namun, kaedah yang diterangkan oleh penulis menjadi lebih mudah pada hari ini dengan adanya media sosial. Orang mudah mempamerkan ke mana dia pergi, di mana dia tinggal, apa barang yang baru dibeli, bahkan mereka berkongsi hal-hal peribadi. Bak kata penulis, perhatikan media sosial seseorang dalam masa seminggu dan kita akan tahu bila waktu yang sesuai untuk menceroboh ke rumahnya. Saya terfikir betapa bahayanya jika teknik-teknik yang diajarkan dalam buku ini digunapakai oleh penjahat. Selain daripada itu, penulis juga menjelaskan cara untuk mengelak daripada kita sendiri mendedahkan rahsia atau maklumat sulit secara tidak sengaja. Belajar untuk tahu motif dan kehendak orang lain. Belajar mengenalpasti kekuatan dan kelemahan pihak lain. Saya melihat sebahagian teknik ini adalah sama dengan Art of War oleh Sun Tzu. Satu lagi kaedah yang menarik adalah cara mempengaruhi dan memujuk orang lain. Sudah tentu, banyak homework yang perlu dilakukan sebelum kita mendekati target. Tidak dapat dinafikan dunia perisikan adalah sangat mencabar serta operasinya sulit. Oleh itu, banyak sekali kerahsiaan yang perlu dijaga. Saya suka dengan teknik 'Be a Chameleon' yang diajarkannya. Rupa-rupanya, tidak susah untuk memanipulasi kehendak manusia.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rob Brock

    This book took me a long time to finish, because I kept leaving it and coming back to it hoping it would get better. The concept is interesting - applying clandestine methods to the business world - but the author overstates her case and contradicts herself throughout the book. For instance, she will encourage you to avoid legal and ethical issues, then immediately say you should stop at nothing to accomplish your goal. These contradictions are mostly just lazy writing (hello cliche: stop at not This book took me a long time to finish, because I kept leaving it and coming back to it hoping it would get better. The concept is interesting - applying clandestine methods to the business world - but the author overstates her case and contradicts herself throughout the book. For instance, she will encourage you to avoid legal and ethical issues, then immediately say you should stop at nothing to accomplish your goal. These contradictions are mostly just lazy writing (hello cliche: stop at nothing?), but they are extremely frustrating. Also, the book is filled with gems like this: “Your most talented, hardest-working, most gregarious, best-liked co-workers are your biggest threats.” The author’s own “most important business lesson” is that “there is information for the taking,” but “this may require manipulation of individuals and exploitation of both organizational and personal vulnerabilities... while still maintaining your integrity.” My recommendation would be to skip this book and instead read The Art of Intelligence, by Henry Crumpton.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tj Vreugdenhil

    It was defiantly interesting to get a small glimpse of some of the practices of CIA clandestine officers On a personal note - this book is encouraging me to finally jump into learning a 2nd language. And also practice getting information from strangers, building my corporate network, identify vulnerabilities in my rivals, and to do great research on my clients/targets before meeting them. Thanks J.C. Carelson! - or whatever your real name is...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Amy Mcsharry

    This book was definitely interesting, but just not as applicable to business as I thought it would be. I was expecting it to give tips on how to maneuver in my business world, but it really was more of a handbook on "how to steal your competitor's best people" in a highly competitive industry where industry secrets can make or break your business. This book was definitely interesting, but just not as applicable to business as I thought it would be. I was expecting it to give tips on how to maneuver in my business world, but it really was more of a handbook on "how to steal your competitor's best people" in a highly competitive industry where industry secrets can make or break your business.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Tolley

    Extremely well-written, organized & excellent business/workplace advice for newbies but didn't include any earth-shattering info-gathering/intel techniques like I hoped, that's why the low rating. Otherwise I'd give it 5 stars. Extremely well-written, organized & excellent business/workplace advice for newbies but didn't include any earth-shattering info-gathering/intel techniques like I hoped, that's why the low rating. Otherwise I'd give it 5 stars.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Garaygay

    good reminders but no big take always nor aha moments at least for me. could be because we've all seen a lot of spy and corp espionage movies and TV shows out there already. good reminders but no big take always nor aha moments at least for me. could be because we've all seen a lot of spy and corp espionage movies and TV shows out there already.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Davis

    Good hook, lame book The premise got my attention, but the meat of this book is garden variety business advice. It’s worthwhile only if you’re brand new to leadership or if you’re ethically challenged and advice to “do right” from a former CIA agent carries some weight that the same advice from a hundred other authors does not.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alvin Lo

    Good idea, but not very attractive execution. Dull examples and topics advised, only except the first two chapters. Others r quite plain, lack of insight into cia life, or even at one pt i think she wrote it backwards -- having wht mgmt pt she has in mind 1st, and then just put whtever cia experience she think could fit in to demonstrate, which made things barely related. Pity.

  11. 5 out of 5

    italiandiabolik

    I read most of the book in two days - then an extensive biz trip forced me to put on hold the last twenty pages. Some advices are encomiabile, others pretty much obvious, overall it is an interesting read to instill in the reader the need to always think out of the box and to always try to look at thing from a different perspective.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Federico

    I may have misunderstood what this book was about. I though it would give tips, from a spy, to apply in your real life. That is not really the case. I learned much more when I watched the TV show "The Spy". I found this book uninteresting. I may have misunderstood what this book was about. I though it would give tips, from a spy, to apply in your real life. That is not really the case. I learned much more when I watched the TV show "The Spy". I found this book uninteresting.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    Her advice seems sound, but she repeats herself a lot. A bit more trimming by a good editor and this would be a very good business primer. I managed to get a few decent take aways, though.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cris Mark

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Es demasiado redundante, si bien tiene algunas buenas lecciónes o repasos se torna repetitivo y aburrido, no llevando un hilo narrativo

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dale Johnson

    Very fun read for a business book. Lots of useful stuff as well as a little creepy in spots. I loved it. I'm currently doing some primary market research which involves what we call depth interviews: long, customer lead interviews about how they behave and feel along general subjects that are related to our industry. Carleson's chapters on covert interviewing were exceptionally fun to read and somewhat relevant to our work, even when the interviewee knows what we're doing. Very fun read for a business book. Lots of useful stuff as well as a little creepy in spots. I loved it. I'm currently doing some primary market research which involves what we call depth interviews: long, customer lead interviews about how they behave and feel along general subjects that are related to our industry. Carleson's chapters on covert interviewing were exceptionally fun to read and somewhat relevant to our work, even when the interviewee knows what we're doing.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Blake Kanewischer

    This book was really weak, from my perspective. There were some thought-provoking exercises and some good ideas in the book, but it was too short and didn't, in my mind, do enough to bridge the two worlds as promised in the book's title. There are elements that are practically common sense and others that are a bit more advanced, but it felt like a distillation of "things to pay attention to" rather than actual strategies. This book was really weak, from my perspective. There were some thought-provoking exercises and some good ideas in the book, but it was too short and didn't, in my mind, do enough to bridge the two worlds as promised in the book's title. There are elements that are practically common sense and others that are a bit more advanced, but it felt like a distillation of "things to pay attention to" rather than actual strategies.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Katricia

    ...I may be on a bit of a "book from X perspective" kick. Certainly an interesting read, and there is some decent advice about confidence and adaptability. The real value is this book, I think, is the interesting tidbits on what her career with the CIA was like. Super interesting, even if ostensibly not the focus of the book. ...I may be on a bit of a "book from X perspective" kick. Certainly an interesting read, and there is some decent advice about confidence and adaptability. The real value is this book, I think, is the interesting tidbits on what her career with the CIA was like. Super interesting, even if ostensibly not the focus of the book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    The anecdotes were entertaining to read, but I didn't really take anything away from this book. The "tips" in it are not for everyone - I think the most appropriate audience for this book would be program managers and CEOs. That being said, the information in this book is fairly intuitive, and anyone that made it to the PM or CEO level would already have those skills/knowledge. The anecdotes were entertaining to read, but I didn't really take anything away from this book. The "tips" in it are not for everyone - I think the most appropriate audience for this book would be program managers and CEOs. That being said, the information in this book is fairly intuitive, and anyone that made it to the PM or CEO level would already have those skills/knowledge.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robin King

    3.5 Stars I'm amazed at how the author was able to relate spy work to many aspects of business. I read this book as research for a book I'm writing, but found that many of the tips here could help someone become a better businessperson and generally to life as a whole. 3.5 Stars I'm amazed at how the author was able to relate spy work to many aspects of business. I read this book as research for a book I'm writing, but found that many of the tips here could help someone become a better businessperson and generally to life as a whole.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kith Leal

    Has great and practical tips for people who are shy, or, who don't have the "people-skills" to thrive in a business environment. A must read for those who are working artists making a transition to the business major! Has great and practical tips for people who are shy, or, who don't have the "people-skills" to thrive in a business environment. A must read for those who are working artists making a transition to the business major!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    To be honest, I got bored halfway through. The basic premise is good... observation, listening skills and a little manipulation can be very helpful in the business world. It just could have been said with half as many words.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Amuse

    This is what you get from a CIA agent who retires and wants to write a book to share everything learned. Not so earth-shaking and not so interesting. I am glad I read it. I now know that I did not miss much when I did not become a professional spook. Really!

  23. 5 out of 5

    June

    It was an OK book. No wow moments in reading. However it did ruin me for spy TV shows and movies with her description of the day to day operations of the CIA. Sounds about as much fun as working for the IRS.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Definitely some interesting concepts, and certainly several that I could practice in my daily work life. Probably a better read for someone in a more competitor-driven company than me, but still some good information to put into practice.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    Very technical! I tried very much too like this book. The author doesn't explain his positions very well. That is one of many reasons. Very technical! I tried very much too like this book. The author doesn't explain his positions very well. That is one of many reasons.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    Not all of it applicable to my situation, but there were some good ideas.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Chynces

    As far as business books go, this was a pretty enjoyable read. It helps to have a keen interest in the 'clandestine tradecraft' the CIA uses to take care of their business. As far as business books go, this was a pretty enjoyable read. It helps to have a keen interest in the 'clandestine tradecraft' the CIA uses to take care of their business.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ian Scott

    Enjoyed the fresh perspective of the spy game applied to business principles. Nice to discover that integrity still reigns supreme.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth McCourt

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bradley Nickerson

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