The Seen and the Unseen
A few years ago, we posted a short article on Red Team Journal about the seen and the unseen. We believe the concept is worth revisiting as we kick off Red Team Journal Plus.
The basic idea is that the seen distracts from the unseen, leading us to overlook the latter. This is doubly true when the seen demands immediate attention. For example, when security vulnerabilities pop up (the seen), we often ignore the deeper problems and issues that facilitate repeated vulnerabilities (the unseen). These deeper issues can hide in unhealthy behavioral patterns and management culture.
We gravitate naturally to the seen; it’s insistent, immediate, and, as a result, much easier to detect and address. Perceiving the unseen takes time and study. When we squeeze every bit of marginal performance out of a manager’s day, there’s very little opportunity to explore the unseen, let alone address it. At most organizations, behavioral patterns and management culture chug along predictably without much deliberate thought. Besides, examining patterns and culture can be uncomfortable, especially when it means a manager or analyst must pick up a mirror and examine his or her reflection honestly. Mental models are remarkably difficult to stretch.
Add a devious adversary to the mix, and the potential scene (seen?) becomes even more complex. Like stage magicians, adversaries often point toward the seen to distract from the unseen. As with the everyday seen and unseen, the oblique shaping of seen and unseen on a more strategic, long-term level can potentially skew an organization’s planning and budgeting efforts for years to come—a statement that has moved from alarmist to plausible in the past half-decade.
As we’ve noted on the new Key Cards page, it can pay to pop up from the daily “running of the maze” to contemplate questions that bridge the seen and the unseen and help re-balance one’s perspective. Check back often; we’ll be adding to the cards regularly.