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Work Like a Spy: Business Tips from a Former CIA Officer [Hardcover]

J.C. Carleson
2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

25 April 2013
Businesses could learn a lot from spies - not only how to respond to crises, but, also, how to achieve operational excellence. WORK LIKE A SPY reveals techniques used by CIA officers that can give readers a tremendous strategic advantage in business.Using real examples from her experiences as an undercover CIA officer, Carleson explains how to create loyalty by inspiring it; recognise individual achievement even during times of team failure and establish a sense of urgency - but only when it's really urgent. WORK LIKE A SPY will help readers:*Understand what a customer really wants*Position themselves in line for promotion*Defend against corporate espionage*Determine whom they can really trust*Deal with a crisisThe methods developed by the CIA are all about getting what you want from other people. In a business setting, they apply to seeking a new job, a promotion, a big sale or a favourable regulatory ruling. Whatever it is you seek, this book will teach you new strategies to get it.

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Work Like a Spy: Business Tips from a Former CIA Officer + Trading Secrets: Spies and Intelligence in an Age of Terror + Spy the Lie: Former CIA Officers Teach You How to Detect Deception
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (25 April 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591843537
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591843535
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.5 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 367,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

Review

"In this clever twist on the career self-help genre, former CIA agent Carleson takes the principles that she learned in clandestine service and applies them to today's business world... This quick and enjoyable read offers plentiful nuggets of information, which can be put to good use by any career-minded reader."
--"Publishers Weekly"

"I found "Work Like a Spy "to be much more than a compelling read penned by an ex-CIA officer. J. C. Carleson importantly offers a fresh slate of easily understood risk mitigation practices and exercises."
--FRANCIS D'ADDARIO, CPP CFE, Emeritus Faculty Leader, Strategic Influence and Innovation, Security Executive Council "This is a blast! J. C. Carleson has written the cure for the common business book. Part business advice book, part memoir, part window into the world of covert intelligence, it will both inform and intrigue the reader. Going beyond the typical business anecdotes, Carleson gives us a glimpse of the world of covert officers, international intrigue, and true high stakes encounters. More than just telling stories, though, "Work Like a Spy "uses examples from the CIA to provide a set of principles that can be used to succeed in any organization."
--ALEXANDER J. S. COLVIN, Professor of Labor Relations and Conflict Resolution, ILR School, Cornell University "Carleson provides a compelling argument for the importance of intelligence and counterintelligence in day-to-day business. Her straightforward sugges-tions encourage the reader to always be on guard for information--either to keep it or to gather it."
--DEB COHEN, Ph.D., SPHR, SVP, Knowledge Development, Society for Human Resource Management

About the Author

J. C. Carleson worked for Starbucks (corporate), Baxter International and Tektronix prior to leaving the private sector to enter the Central Intelligence Agency's elite clandestine service. She was an undercover CIA officer for eight years.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull and tedious 12 Mar 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book neither sheds any light on how the CIA operates, nor on anything that anyone who works in business already knows. It is a disappointing comparison which fails to provide any value. You are better off spending your money elsewhere.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Should have been a magazine article 18 Mar 2013
Format:Hardcover
Like SO many American non-fiction books, this would have made an interesting magazine article. It does not contain enough material to be a book, and is therefore 80% filler and nothingness. Shame.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read 24 April 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Well worth reading. Its amazing how many things you can or already use in day to day working life. the book is well writtedn and very informative.
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and informative little book, with some good advice 7 Feb 2013
By Aaron C. Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The author of this book was not a spy in the Sidney Reilly or Mata Hari sense. Rather she was a case officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, gathering information in foreign countries in a variety of ways that included bribing officials, assuming false identities and stealing documents. While these activities may seem far removed from everday legal businesses (or not, your experience may differ) she makes a strong case that there is significant overlap in the requirements for success. Those requirements do not include cynanide pills, exploding cufflinks or Mission: Impossible style plastic masks.

When stripped to its essentials, the advice is pretty much the same as Dale Carnagie preached almost 80 years ago, with a bit of Frank Abagnale to spice it up. So you're not going to find any magic bullets in here, any never-before-revealed secrets to make business as easy as James Bond saving the world. But it's more fun reading this sensible advice in the context of daring covert operations than sales calls or meetings. Plus there is a serious educational advantage to changing the context, it helps you think more abstractly and at a higher level about the things you do every day, and avoids some of the possible blocks most people have to acquiring new ideas. The extreme difficulty and danger of some of its work forces the CIA to manage some aspects of tasks to a higher level than is often found among people who have difficulty spelling "clandestine." Finally, the advice may stay with you longer as a result of the novel associations this book delivers.

One minor criticism is the business examples tend to be one-dimensional. Although the author claims a varied business career before going to spy school, it appears to have been a narrow one, and one that she did not think about much. When she translates CIA-honed techniques to above board business, the settings seem more like scenes from a made-for-TV movie than real work. I don't think that's serious, however, because even a nuanced and accurate translation would be useful only for specific situations in specific businesses. Once you understand the concepts, you should have no trouble making them relevant to your own experience.

A more substantive criticism is the author does not discuss criticisms of covert operations. This matters, because those criticisms carry over to using related techniques in business. She does not mention, for example, that all our major security breaches were from people hired to protect our security. There is no acknowledgment of abuses by US intelligence organizations, nor that the existence of these organizations give weight to people who suspect us of even worse abuses. She does not consider whether stealing information leads to an escalating retaliation cycle that leaves all sides worse off than if they refrained from opening each other's mail and reading each other's diaries. Torture, assassination, fraud and other objectionable means are absent from the book, as is any discussion of whether offical lying, cheating and stealing--for whatever reasons seem important at the time--act as a slow poison to transparent democratic government. I'm not saying all these are valid criticisms, although I tend to be pretty anti-spy in the main, but the book would be stronger if it did not ignore them. No one wants to import dangerous relics of the Cold War into their business. This criticism is muted somewhat because the author does present a positive case for operations, and emphasizes the honesty, morality and strength of character necessary for success in the field, characteristics she argues are both selected for and encouraged by the CIA (however, as David Halberstam pointed out, The Best and the Brightest are not always the right people for the job).

Overall, I recommend this as a pleasant read that presents some sensible advice in a dramatic context. It's well-written with a good mix of anecdote and argument. You'll learn a little about spying and, hopefully, take away a few useful lessons about other things. A little more depth about business, and more important about spying, would have made the book better.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good for the novice but nothing new for the experienced business professional 3 Mar 2013
By Dagny Taggart - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For me, this book was 1 star. For others, particularly those junior in the business world, it might be a 5 star.

As an experienced corporate professional on Wall Street with a mix of technical background, selling skills and leadership responsibilities, I found that all the points made in the book I already knew. I'm not suggesting I know everything, clearly I don't which is why I purchased the book to see if I could learn anything substantive. It turns out that the points made weren't detailed enough and were too vague to be of use for someone who has survived successfully so long in the corporate world already.

However, to be fair, as I was reading the book, I felt that the points made were good aggregate summaries of overall approach to surviving the workforce, and would have been particularly helpful to me in my earlier years. As I read the book, I felt myself constantly conjuring up images and names of people I have come across that fit into some of the personality types and the descriptions were fairly accurate in terms of success profiles and "what not to do". In spite of that though, neither of the sections went into enough detail to be truly actionable.

In addition, I didn't feel that the author had a substantial corporate world experience. The author admits job hopping quite a bit and didn't stay at each job for long. Perhaps 1-2 years max at each job, although I can't remember if that was specifically stated. The point is, how can one be a reputable source on the corporate world if they haven't been able to implement these specific "suggestions" in the workforce? They can't. I don't feel the author has more credibility than, say myself, in the corporate world. Mgmt trainee starting off in the executive compensation dept? Not to belittle that, but hardly a barometer for success, even if it is entry-level, first job straight out of college.

Chapters:
1) Basic Principles: high level overview of the book, a quick interesting read of sidebar anecdotes. Lends the book to potential of learning something.
2) Operating Instincts: this chapter focuses on 4 building blocks:
- targeting (this is basic principle 101 of finding out who to reach out to and a book on networking would have been better; added nothing for me)
- strategic elicitation (tips on eliciting information from people - again, no value add for anyone was has traveled for work and is somewhat of an extrovert and can strike up a conversation)
- corroboration (common sense, which admittedly is not really common anymore, but who doesn't seek to validate observations? anyone who has gone through any type of group projects, starting with school and rumors, will know to corroborate hearsay)
- trust & rapport (really? come on. this is not even 101)
3) Business Counterintelligence: an interesting chapter full of anecdotes, but nothing truly substantive for the vast majority of professionals despite the upfront caveat by author that this is applicable even if you're not working on a secret defense project or as a subcontractor for one. There was a good story about the corporate world and how a guy hired an office manager who was the daughter-in-law of a competitor; this does reaffirms that the paranoid survive.
4) Recruitment: a lot of common sense here about how to recruit people and matching skills with tasks instead of title; again, a lot of common sense that any somewhat experienced professional should already know and if HR doesn't do this in this day and age (March 2013) then shame on the company.
5) Ethics: thankfully, not a chapter preaching ethics and right vs wrong, but conclusion is that an ethical person is more trustworthy. Really? Come on. The book "Everything I learned, I learned in Kindergarten" or whatever the specific title probably explained this already.
6) Crisis Mgmt: Good stories about CIA's post-9/11 response which serve as good reminders of what to do in time of crisis; as well as what not to do. Good accurate protrayal of what happens in corporate world but stops short of explaining the motivations of poor crisis mgmt in corporate world - notably that the chain of command are also running around nervous, each man for himself and as such, productivity grinds to a halt. Because the high ups are concerned about their own job security with no definable stake in the final outcome (beyond stock options), paralysis exists. A nice contrast the author could have introduced is that firms with a large ownership structure by a founding family (i.e. common in Asia, but not in the USA) will NOT see this because there is effective leadership coming from on top. Sadly, no offer of advice by the author on how to handle this situation if you are a worker bee.
7) Sales Pitches: Absolutely not helpful to those who already understand "build rapport, find common ground". Truth be told, I was looking for a magic bullet here or some insight that I didn't already know. Basic networking strategies of having multiple stories to show as examples in conversations are more helpful than anything the author wrote. To be fair, one thing that was a good reminder to me was Technique #7 of "Regularly Re-recruit". Oftentimes, we need to constantly remind our clients and constituents of why they use us a vendor. Constant (but not bothersome) reinforcement is critical.
8) Supply-Chain Mgmt: a summary of everything else discussed in the book, particularly, have multiple sources of information that you corroborate. Nothing new at all.
9) Competition: evaluate your own weaknesses, improve them, understand your rivals, nothing new either.

In summary, a good summary for a college student, but nothing substantive for anyone with moderate success in the corporate world. Perhaps my expectations were too high?
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A spy's eye in the workplace 8 Feb 2013
By Reuters Breakingviews - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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.

[...]
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Applications of Human Intelligence Techniques for Business 20 Sep 2013
By Eric Eugene Sifford - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In "On War," Carl von Clausewitz makes the famous proposition that "War is a mere continuation of policy by other means," and the case for an inescapable relationship between war and politics. The same can be said of war and business or even of espionage and business. In her book Work Like a Spy: Business Tips from a Former CIA Officer, J.C. Carleson uses her unique backgrounds in both the Central Intelligence Agency and the private sector to pass along tips for use in business and in life.

As a Human Intelligence Collector in the U.S. Army, I have long come to realize it is all about people. Essentially any item of information we need is in the mind of someone if we can only access it. Likewise, essentially anything we need done can be done by someone if we can only get them to do it. Understanding human nature, both our own and of the people with whom we interact, means everything. Work Like a Spy offers an inside glimpse into the world of human intelligence and unclassified tradecraft that can help us all be more effective.

Work Like a Spy is divided into three parts. Part One is an introduction to the clandestine world and the basic concepts of intelligence collection from human sources. Carleson makes the fundamental assertion that the best way to get information on any subject is to get it directly from a human source that has it. She further elaborates on techniques anyone can use to get close to the people who can help them and how to use observation, interpersonal skills, and elicitation techniques to establish rapport and obtain useful information. Beyond simple theory, Carleson includes practical exercise to give her readers opportunity to apply and build each skillset she discusses. It is important to note Ms. Carleson is not teaching people how to use or manipulate others. On the contrary, she is simply helping her readers understand the nature of human interaction and how to prepare for opportunities and potential dangers. The author also discusses counterintelligence (CI) and gives practical, inexpensive ways for business leaders to detect potential CI issues. She recommends monitoring for certain changes in an organization's operational environment to include where former employees are going to work, where former clients are going for business, and how quickly competitors are countering new initiatives. Changes to the composite answers to such questions may be indicators of potential intelligence leaks.

In Part Two, Carleson discusses internal business applications of human intelligence tradecraft. She gives immensely practical hiring advice. From the careful crafting of job announcements to using elicitation skills learned in Part One to corroborate applicant skills and background, her advice on employee screening alone could save an organization considerable time and money. CIA management techniques can also be applied to internal management of both personnel and crises. Again, Carleson renders practical advice - how to attract and retain highly skilled personnel and how to best utilize unique talents and personalities. She describes the importance of establishing non-negotiable organization ethical absolutes and the key roles management must fulfill during an organizational crisis. My favorite nugget of advice I gleaned from Part Two was to "Own the solution, not the mistake." It is insufficient for a leader to take ownership of a mistake - seizing the initiative to develop a fully-implementable solution for the mistake is far more important than simply admitting to it.

Part Three describes external applications of lessons from the CIA. If anyone has a hard sell to make, it is a CIA case officer. Convincing someone from another part of the world to commit espionage against their government, their group, or even their own tribe or family is amazingly difficult - not to mention potentially very dangerous. Yet the CIA successfully does it time after time, and over the years, case officers have learned valuable lessons about human nature in the process. Carleson concludes this section by stating the CIA does not focus on selling a product. Instead, CIA case officers focus on developing interpersonal relationships, conducting research, understanding vulnerabilities, and building rapport. These skills tend to be neglected in today's world of high-tech communications. As Ms. Carleson reminds her readers, psychological prowess is far more important than technological prowess. Finally, the author instructs her readers in how to follow the CIA's strategy of "360-degree intelligence collection" by building a source network that includes subordinates, peers, supervisors, and even multiple sources from within the organizations of suppliers and subcontractors. Nothing compares to intelligence and support available directly from the people most able to provide it.

Work Like a Spy is an interesting read and a great primer on unclassified CIA tradecraft. The book goes a long way to help readers understand the importance of interpersonal relationships and how to be successful at them. Ms. Carleson concludes her book with the assertion that building "a solid reputation for integrity" is far more important than any tradecraft, no matter how well applied. I could not agree more. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to be more successful and astute in their interpersonal relationships. The tradecraft presented in this book is powerful, but doomed to fail unless applied with integrity and honor. As chaplains in the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Corps say, "The moral high ground is key terrain."

Carleson, J.C. (2013). Work Like a Spy: Business Tips from a Former CIA Officer. London: Portfolio Hardcover.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and entertaining 23 April 2013
By Archspy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Good information on understanding clients and co-workers from a CIA agent's point of view for what their triggers and motivations are.
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