Richard Clark.jpg

Get the Podcast:

  • Richard Clarke Podcast
  • Richard Clarke Spotify
  • Richard Clarke Google Play
  • Richard Clarke Podcast

Leadership - Richard Clarke | Intangibles 013

By Steve Berg October 30, 2017

On This Episode:

Today we speak with Richard Clarke. Richard Clarke served for thirty years in national security policy roles in the US Government, first in the Pentagon, then the State Department, and finally for three Presidents, President George H. W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush, in the White House. Following his government career, he was an on-air analyst for ABC News for fifteen years, taught at the Harvard Kennedy School for five years, lead a security risk management consulting firm (Good Harbor), and served on corporate advisory boards. Richard is the host of the FUTURE STATE podcast. Clarke’s books include both non-fiction (5) and fiction (4). We touch on Against All Enemies and Warnings during our conversation.


Intro: Welcome to Intangibles, a podcast about the traits, behaviors, and qualities that entrepreneurs can cultivate to help be successful. This podcast is created by Antecedent Ventures, an enterprise-focused seed-stage venture firm in New York City. You can find us at I'm your host, Steve Berg. 


This season is brought to you by Dentons Venture Technology Group at Operating as a boutique within the world's largest law firm, the venture technology group runs with hard-charging tech entrepreneurs to drive growth through strategic business, finance, and legal advice from Silicon Valley and New York to London, Berlin, Hong Kong, and beyond. Learn more at 


Today's topic is leadership. If leadership is not the most important quality that a founder can have to influence her or his success, it's right near the top of the list. To quote Vince Lombardi, “Leaders are made. They are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price that they must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.” I think that's good news for most of the people listening. It implies that we can study the tenets of great leadership, and if we're willing to put in the effort continually get better. 


My guest today is Richard Clarke. I don't think he needs an introduction, but just in case, he is the former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-Terrorism for the United States. These days, he's the bestselling author, as well as the Chairman of Good Harbor Consulting and Good Harbor International two strategic planning and corporate risk management firms. 


Steve: Welcome, Mr. Clarke. 


Richard: It’s good to be with you. 


Steve: Is there anything I left out of your bio that you'd like to highlight? 


Richard: No. I think if people want the full bio, they can go to the website 


Steve: Perfect. Alright. Let me launch right in. You serve in the administration of four presidents, starting with Reagan and ‘85 and concluding with George W. Bush in 2003. You've had a front-row seat to leadership at the highest levels, not to mention a fair bit of leadership experience yourself. I think it was you who said there's a wide chasm between good and great leadership. Let's start by defining great leadership in your view. 


Richard: Well, I think great leaders are able to create great teams around them, and they're able to attract great teams to serve with them because they listen, they're intellectually curious, and they have a destination they want to go to. People who cannot attract great teams. I don't think great leaders. I don't think great leaders can be an individual. I think, especially in modern-day corporate settings and government settings. People who achieve great outcomes can only do it together. 


Steve: Yeah, I agree with that. You were interviewed by Forbes several months ago. You mentioned some of the traits that you think are part of a great leadership, which included motivational skill, the willingness to roll up your sleeves, and I'm paraphrasing on this one, but essentially, grace under pressure, is that your rank order in terms of the traits that leaders have? 


Richard: Yeah, I think so. Leaders, by definition, are ones who get other people to do extra, to do more than they would otherwise. And to do that, you have to be motivational. There are a variety of ways of doing that depending on the setting, but the leader has to be able to get the teams and the troops to give that extra ounce of effort. Has to be able to attract people to join the team, has to be able to lay out a clear vision of where they're going and why it's important. All of that comes down to motivation, and motivation frequently is being able to speak in front of groups and convey that message. But you can't convey the message if you don't believe it, you have to believe it yourself. You have to understand it. You have to have thought of the way that message comes off with various audiences, and you have to speak to their needs and their desires and show them why they want to be a part of it. I think that's the greatest requirement, but after that, I do think rolling up your sleeves the ability to do some of the jobs that need to be done. I led small organizations in the government, and I was blessed in that in every organization that I led. I had already been in it long enough to have done most of the jobs that I was asking other people to do. And when they went on vacation, when they were traveling, when they had a child and needed to take some time off, I could step in and do their jobs. And did. I think that that encourages people to know that it's a team effort and to know that you know what you're talking about because you know how to do their job as well. I think those are all important skills if they work in your context. 


Steve: Sure. And then, of course, I think grace under pressure is fairly self-explanatory, although I would argue among the three that you rank order 1-2-3 probably the hardest to do.


Richard: Well, no one knows if they have it or not until they're under pressure. No one can learn how to manage a crisis without managing one. I do a lot of tabletop exercises and crisis simulations for CEOs and corporate teams, and I try to make them as real as possible to make them sweat, to give them a stress test so that when they have a real crisis, it won't be their first one. But no matter how well I do that and my team does that, there's always going to be a huge difference between a simulation of a crisis and a real crisis and some people crack in a real crisis, and you never know who that's going to be. Some people just can't take the pressure or the pace, because in a crisis, things are happening much more rapidly by definition, and you're getting deluged with information, much of which is wrong. And so some people panic and don't know how to deal with it. It's a situation where you don't really know how you will respond until it happens to you. 


Steve: Yeah. Great point about velocity. I'm guessing that your list is broader than the top three. You actually mentioned curiosity, any other behaviors? Integrity, humility, charisma that jump to mind that you put on is maybe 4-5-6. 


Richard: Well, I think honesty, whether that's the same as integrity or not, is pretty close. I think no one wants to work with an organization or a leader that they think is a little old, slimy, a little cutting the edges here and there. I think the leader who admits their own errors, the leader who is frank with them about the situation, has a better response from the team, because, you know, it's like when you have kids, you don't tell them things. You don't want them to know what's going on. Perhaps they always know, they can pick it up in the family situation and teams working together in government or in the corporate sector, they can always pick it up. They know when there's something going wrong, and you just have to be honest with them about it. 


Steve: Yeah. Even my eight-year-old knows exactly what's going on, regardless of how much information he gets from me. 


Richard: Exactly. You can't hide it.


Steve: No, you can’t. The first book that I ever bought that you wrote was Against All Enemies, besides being an accounting of the actions taken in the war on terrorism and in particular 9/11 during the George Bush administration, I'm sorry, the George W. Bush administration. I think it's an instructive manual on some of the pitfalls of leaders. If we ignore political leanings as much as possible for just a moment. One of the things that stands out to me is the importance of leaders to identify what is signal and what is noise. And I know you were just touching on that a moment ago. If you could talk a little bit about the mechanisms for that and the impact on optimal decision-making of being able to do that, that'd be great. 


Richard: Well, what I found interesting in looking at three or four presidents I worked closely with is there interest in outside sources of information. Were they just taking what we were serving up to them, which I hoped was good, if not great, information? But were they also going outside the normal channels to maintain contact with people outside the government, to step outside the bubble, as it were, and also to be able to reach experts that we hadn't talked to? The thing about Bill Clinton that always amazed me is I would go in to brief him on something that I would assume he knew nothing about. But he would have seen that item on his schedule a couple of days ahead, and he would have started reading on his own about it. And he'd stay up until 2 and 3 in the morning, sometimes reading and calling people around. And so by the time I walked in to brief him, he frequently knew more than I did. That gave me, that up to my game. As a staff member, I had to work harder. I had to be better because he was doing it, too. And if I were really going to add value, I needed to go the extra mile. 


Steve: I've met him once, and I'm astounded by the amount of information that he can keep in his head. So exactly. I know exactly what you're putting your finger on when you talk about that. 


Richard: There was a problem with that, though, which I learned occasionally to my great pain, which is he also never forgets. And so if you've given him a briefing on something six months later, he still remembers that pivotally. Well, six months later, it may no longer be true. And he will discover if a question pops up in the public setting, he will recall last file. He had a visual identic memory, and he would see the briefing memo, and he would just spouted back six months later or a year later. And it might be wrong by then. So what we learned was we had to keep him up to date on anything we had ever briefed him on. 


Steve: That's amazing. You're basically talking about when the signal becomes noise, right? 


Richard: Exactly. Exactly. 


Steve: Who would have guessed that is a problem? I'm particularly fond of the Oscar Wilde quote that goes, “it is personalities, not principles that move the age.” The GW Bush administration maintained a lot of strong personalities, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and others. How much? And you were talking about picking the right team. What kind of a balance of skill set does the right team need in your mind so that it's not all strong personalities? 


Richard: Well, I thought when that team was announced, it was a great team, and I look forward to working with them. And I did enjoy working with them for about a month until I realized what was going on. The problem with them, frankly, was that there were teams within teams. They weren't really all on the same team. Cheney and Rumsfeld had their own little channel, and they excluded the National Security Advisor from those discussions. Rumsfeld, who is the Secretary Of Defense, disdained Condoleezza Rice, a National security advisor, talked about her behind her back as an intern, wouldn't attend her meeting, didn't take her process seriously. You can't have that sort of thing in a team of eight to 10, 9 or 10 national security leaders. They all have to be on the same team. There can be factions, but they all have to play in the same system, and they have to accept the roles given to the other players by the team captain, President Bush made Condi Rice the National Security Advisor. Maybe she wasn't terribly experienced for that job, but she was a National Security Advisor. And either Rumsfeld and Cheney should have played in the system that she ran, or she should have quit. 


Steve: Right. So in my mind, you've highlighted two things, too many alphas and also not enough enforcement by the top in making sure that the process was being adhered to so that the outcome could be the outcomes that the process should have generated.


Richard: And not enough awareness. I really don't think President Bush knew how dysfunctional the principal's committee was. Principals committee is all the national security leaders except the President and Vice President. And it's the chief operating committee, if you will. It meets maybe twice, three times a week on the whole host of national security issues, and the process just broke down because two of the key players were not really participating in it. 


Steve: Was there a scalar personality that you identify that had they added to that team, could have improved it? 


Richard: Well, I thought the best national security manager I ever saw was Robert Gates. And oddly, not when he was Secretary Of Defense, although he was a great Secretary Of Defense, and everyone recognizes that. But I actually thought his best performance was when he was the deputy national security advisor. Because the deputies committee, which is one layer down, meets every day, and people trudge over to the White House from the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA, the Justice Department, and they go through maybe a half dozen issues a day. That's where decision making should take place. Very few things should bubble up to the President. When Bob Gates ran the deputies committee, he would walk in and he would begin by reading the conclusion of the meeting on whatever the topic was. And at first I thought that was offensive. It's presumptuous, but he would say, no, look, this is where I think we're going to come out. And let's just focus on where it's wrong and that'll save time. And it did save time. It saved enormous amounts of time. It moved us quickly to a consensus. People were able to say, no, no, you got that element wrong. But it showed us a way to get through the issue without a lot of posturing, and people really appreciated it. When there was a need for discussion, the discussion would occur. But when there wasn't, we didn't have to have it just for the sake of having it. 


Steve: Yeah. I think there's a big difference between saying this is the decision we're going to reach, and this is the conclusion I think we're going to reach. 


Richard: Yeah. This is the conclusion I think we're going to reach based on my briefing of all of your positions and my understanding of the facts, and tell me where it's wrong. And let's focus on that rather than going through the whole thing. Let's find out where we have common ground. Put that aside. Save that, and where we're still things that are in contention. Let's spend the meeting on that. 


Steve: Yeah, that's great. Another big thing that struck me Against All Enemies book was the amount of and you were touching about this. You just started to, personal bias and emotion that was part of the decision process. I know in my questions that I've got prepared. I think I would like to talk about data driven decision making in a few minutes, but if we could spend a moment on the negative impact of allowing too much emotion into decision making, I think that's an important thing to draw out for when we think about leadership. 


Richard: Well, you obviously want leaders that have emotion because emotion is the fuel that they need to power them and through all the long hours and the extra work and all of that. But emotion can also cloud analysis, and it can give you preconceived prejudices and preconceived outcomes, and they're deadly, because what you're trying to do in any leadership role is scan the horizon and try to understand the facts and try to predict the future, frankly. And that's very hard to do if you have the blinders on of biases. We all have cognitive biases, but we don't recognize that sometimes when we're working hard at our job, we don't stop and say, oh, gee, what are my, cognitive biases? But we really need to because otherwise we miss the key facts when things change. 


Steve: Yeah. And if we know them, then we can take into account what those biases might be. 


Richard: Exactly. 


Steve: So I'm going to switch books to Your Government Failed You. Certainly. This is a discussion of historical events, but in my context, I think it's a discussion about complacency, partisanship and bloat within our management systems, particularly as they relate to terrorism, climate change, and cyber security. Was the book at the time, or maybe is it now a commentary on the future of the democratic system? And by the way, what do you think is the future of democracy?


Richard: I don't think your government failed you so much about democracy as it is about bureaucracy. It's about the growth of bureaucracy. And, frankly, the private sector companies that leech off the government with government contracts, and about the natural tendency of the government to solve problems by throwing money and people at them rather than really thinking about what the problems are and coming up with a tailored solution. As to democracy, democracy in the United States. I know right now we think it doesn't work as well as it has in the past, but I'm not sure that's right. I think this last election, whether or not you like the outcome, reflected real sentiment in the population that just hasn't had a way of coming out before. I think going into the next two sets of elections in ‘18 and ‘20, I think both parties are going to be a little bit more aware of what sentiments are driving large blocks of the electorate, rather than assuming sort of an identity politics way of treating people. Democracy beyond our own borders, I think, has to be tailored to the country. The George W. Bush administration, after 9/11 became a big advocate of democracy in the Middle East, and they actually said, if we can turn these Arab countries into democracies, then terrorism will not grow there. I never understood where they got that logic, because I'm not sure that's ever been demonstrated. But it's also not clear that you can turn a country into a democracy overnight. No, we maybe did that in Japan and to some extent, Germany by occupying them at enormous cost. And maybe that's what people had in mind with Iraq. But really, democracy has to in whatever form of democracy you end up with, it has to be home grown and it can't be imposed from outside. I think the Arab countries need to tailor their own forms of consensual government. It may not be traditional democracy, and it probably won't look like European democracy. Why should it? 


Steve: Yeah, in your mind, I'm staying with Your Government Failed You for a moment. In your mind, how much ownership for any discrete events and the responses to those events should be assigned to the specific person in the Oval Office at the time, and how much responsibilities should be assigned to the bureaucracy that we, as citizens, have put in place, which by design, is slow and methodical? 


Richard: Well, I think ultimately, for big national decisions the President makes, the President should take ownership of those decisions. The decision to go into Iraq in 2003, that was entirely optional decision. That was not something that inevitably was going to happen. It was not something that we needed to do. Occasionally, there are those decisions where it comes down to the President, and the bureaucracy may or may not have done a good job serving up the decision, but they're not the blame, because ultimately the President and only the President can make those kinds of calls, and he or she should really be the one who does the diligence. If the bureaucracy has done a bad job, they ought to know that they go figure that out. Barack Obama spent enormous amounts of time doing diligence on questions like, should we send more troops to Afghanistan? Meeting after meeting after meeting, asking questions, asking more questions, more analysis, sending people back to do their homework? He was not making that decision lightly, and he really didn't go into that discussion with the preconceived notion about what the outcome was. That's the kind of thing a President should do. I happen to think he made the wrong decision, but that's okay. The process. The process was right.


Steve: Right. How can we, being citizens, influence our leaders or how our leaders lead and maybe more over influence the ability of our democracy as it stands to be more agile and more responsive to these things so that we can get to better decisions? 


Richard: Well, I think exposing facts and people think, Oh, well, that's the job of journalists, and it is, or that's the job of congressional hearings. It is, but they almost never get there. Congress has as one of its responsibilities, oversight. They do a terrible job on it. But I think exposing facts is the best way to influence outcomes, exposing them and getting them publicized. And social media allows you to do that in a way that the average citizen didn't have 10 or 15 years ago. 


Steve: I think there's also an onus on the citizens themselves to actually seek out those facts and know those facts in terms of their decision choice. 


Richard: And actually be sure that they're facts, which means asking the follow up question, looking at the sourcing and getting multiple sources and not just listening to your own people. 


Steve: Yeah, I agree. Okay. This is the exciting part for me. I'm moving on to Warnings, which is your latest book. And from my perspective as a technology geek, the one that I find more most interesting of all of them so far. Before I ask a question, let me tell everyone who likes this podcast that they need to read Warnings. It'll make your head explode. It's fantastic. Okay. Why don't you just give a quick explanation of what a Cassandra is? And based on that, how you've laid out this book? 


Richard: Well, my co author and I, R.P. Eddy, two years ago were sitting around and said, do you ever notice how after every big disaster or catastrophe, there's an investigation and they find the woman or the man who in advance of the event, said it was going to happen, and they were ignored. And we said, yeah, you know, that's kind of like what happened to Cassandra in Greek mythology. She was cursed by the gods, and the curse was that she could see the future accurately. Sounds like a good thing. But when she told anybody about an impending disaster, she was ignored. And her inability to stop those disasters drove her crazy. So Cassandra in Greek mythology, was prescient and right. So we started looking. We made a list of the last 20 years or so of major disasters that we knew about. And we started looking in each case to see once they're always somebody like that. And almost always there was. And so the question we asked ourselves was if we can find these people, these experts, these data driven experts, not people who wake up in the middle of the night with the premonition. But if we can find these experts after the fact, why can't we find them before the fact? And if we find them before the fact, could we prevent or at least mitigate the disaster, that this book is about. It's about 14 people who fit that category. 


Steve: Now, I want to set the stage as to where my next questions are coming from, and at the same time, kind of admit my own biases a very big on data driven and process driven decision making. As a VC, I'm protechnological innovation as a driver of quality of life, longevity, and improvement of the human condition. And I do believe that progress is inevitable with regard to AI, genomics, internet of things, on both sides, the good for humanity and not so good for humanity side. So with that in mind, I've always thought that government is a drag on innovation, which is bad, meaning they're slow to get there. They don't fully understand it. 


Richard: Except when they fund it. 


Steve: So, for example, in the creation of the Internet, certainly. Yes. right? 


Richard: Space exploration, few other things. 


Steve: The question is, do you think that the deliberate pace with which the government reacts to new technology might actually be a good thing because it gives more time to identify and react to the sentinel events? 


Richard: Well, sometimes government just lets technology go running so far ahead that it doesn't know enough about the technology until it's too late, until there are negative sides to it. That's normally the case, I think, you say, well, government. When government does get involved, it slows things down. Yes, it does, but very often it doesn't get involved for a very long time because it's not clear who's in charge within the government. And there is. Over the last 20 years or so years, there's been a great reluctance on the part of the government to get in the way of technology in progress. Great reluctance on the part of the government to regulate. I know people find that hard to believe because there's a lot of government regulation, but it's very, very hard nowadays. Together, government regulation, a new one, new technologies pop up and they run forward, and the government doesn't usually do much about it. That's sometimes okay, because it allows for innovation. But it's sometimes bad because the government could have said something simple and smart early on. That would save us all a lot of pain and money and sometimes disaster. I'm thinking of the internet of things as an example. There's a chapter in the book, Warnings about the internet of things. There's a time right now when we're exploding the Internet of things. It's very quiet. You don't see it by looking out your window, but we're going from a handful of Internet connected to devices, maybe 4 or 5,000,000,000 handful, but a small number to probably 30,000,000,000 in a matter of a few years. Lots of things are being connected, and that will be a problem because no one is requiring those things that are being connected to have any security designed in after the fact they'll try to go on security. But if you don't design it in from the beginning, it usually doesn't work very well. There will be problems. They're already starting to be problems where people are going after the security flaws in the internet of things and creating small amounts of chaos. I think it'll get bigger. All government had to do at the beginning of this process was recognized that the trend was going on and say to industries, various industries, you should get together and talk about this. You should have security designed in from the beginning. You should set standards and imply that if you don't, we will, but at least be the convener, that gets people together to recognize that they're forgetting something because market forces don't require them to put security in. Market forces get get them going first to market a first mover advantage, but they don't require them to worry about the downstream negative effects. 


Steve: Right. So this is your comments timing about perfect early in the process versus later. Proactive versus reactive, and that ends up changing the amount of risk, potential consequences, the opportunity for some of these disasters that could potentially occur, as you've written about, to be mitigated, right? 


Richard: Right. And not to be terribly prescriptive about it, and not to think that the expertise resides in the government. Convene people, get people sitting around the table, make sure that people who are making decisions in industry have actually heard about the risks in a way that is convincing, if that's possible, so that they understand the need for doing something, and then they come up with a way that makes sense to them to design the security in from the beginning. That's a very different approach than traditional regulation, but I think it's the only approach that can work. 


Steve: Right. So this goes back to the last set of questions. Can we actually expect the government that can do that? 


Richard: In some parts of the government, there are organizations that can do that. But when you're trying to get new technologies to harness new technologies and to do something that looks like regulation right now, it's exceedingly hard. 


Steve: Yeah. So you touched on IoT. One of the ones when I was reading was fascinating to me was the discussion of AI and my question on that one in particular, without diving into every single one of them. So you've established this Cassandra award, and that is to be able to call out Cassandras in advance, isn't AI? Is it mature AI going to essentially become its own Cassandra? 


Richard: You would hope that if you programmed it to, that mature AI could do this function that we're talking about. There's no one in the government that has the responsibility and no one in society that has the responsibility of scanning the horizon right now for potential Cassandra events. And we think there ought to be. And that's why we're in the absence of the government doing it, we're establishing an annual award. You can hear about that. Read about that by going to We're doing that so that people will think about this phenomenon. But yeah, I suppose if you programmed a very advanced AI, one that we probably don't have yet, the capability for it could see connections that perhaps the humans were not seeing, and therefore see risks that humans didn't see. 


Steve: One of the things I particularly liked about the book was you did your best to incorporate in surveys and percentage chances of certain things happening based on the best and the brightest and their current state of thinking, which kind of gives you, you don't necessarily want to just walk away thinking gloom and doom. You want to think about the spectrum of possibility now, some percentage of that being gloom and doom. 


Richard: Yeah. And one of the things we suggest for decision makers is that if you find a Cassandra and they come in and they present and almost all these Cassandras are outliers. They're an expert, and everyone recognizes the previously accomplishments in that field, they've had them. But now they're saying something that is a minority view. So if you find that person, and you listen to their data, and people can't really say that there's anything wrong with their data, because by the way, all the Cassandra we interviewed use the same sentence to us. It was very odd. They said, I hope I'm wrong. Here's my data. I ask other experts, show me what's wrong with my data. So if you're the decision maker and you've had that experience with a Cassandra, the only path out of this is not just to say, okay, fine. I agree with you. I'm going to give you the resources. I'm going to change everything we're doing. There's another path out. And the other path out is to put that issue under surveillance and to keep updating the data and see where that data is trending and see if more experts are coming around to their conclusion. And it's a surveillance strategy. It's also a hedging strategy where you start beginning to do planning, relatively inexpensively, start beginning to do planning on what would happen. What would you have to do if it turned out that the Cassandra was right? We talked to Jim Hanson in the book about sea level rise. He's the great planet, climate expert at Columbia. And when we interviewed him, very few people thought he was right about sea level rise because rather than taking the UN model that says it'll rise by a meter by 2100, he was saying would rise by six meters, maybe even nine meters globally, sea level rose. And he was very much an outlier, had a decision maker when we interviewed him, put that issue under surveillance. They would by now be seeing more and more and more experts moving to his side. He's no longer the only outlier saying this, and seeing that trend in the data, seeing that trend in the experts, I think you would put more and more resources into the hedging strategy of planning for that outcome. 


Steve: Yeah. When you mentioned that, I hope I'm wrong, but that particular story immediately jumped to mind. And particularly how the experts were saying, well, look, here's the data. And he said, no, I can't use that data because that implies that this is happening at this rate and it's not happening at this rate. That really brings me to the last prepared question that I have, which is this dated driven decision making? I'd like to get your thoughts about it in context of what we talked about, the signal and noise of identifying leaders with this particular skill set and also what we do with imperfect information, because that decision making under imperfect information seems is really just the norm. 


Richard: No, I think that's right. Everybody wants to make data driven decisions. But the question is, are you asking the follow on questions? Are you asking about the reliability of the data, the way it was collected, the way it was analyzed? Has anybody else looked at this data and come to a different conclusion based on the data? Are there other data sets, the data sets that somebody thinks we should be taking into account that we're not, that are tangential. I'm always reminded of, in my business, Colon Powell, testifying before the UN Security Council about the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. He was dubious. He was given the speech, a draft speech by Dick Cheney's office, and he didn't just read it. He took it, drove up to CIA, spent two days at CIA with the analysts, with the experts around the table, went through the speech line by line, saying, What's the evidence of that? What's the source for that? And when they got to, for example, Iraq has biological weapons in the developing them in mobile laboratories. He said, what's the evidence for that? And they said, West German intelligence. Here's the report. He said, okay, fine. And moved on. He didn't ask the follow up question, where did West German intelligence get that story? If he had, he would have learned that it was a source that had no access to the information. It was a source who had been given past information that had proven to be wrong. And it was the source who had a political act to cried. He didn't ask the follow up question. And so it's fine to be data driven. But don't just be satisfied because you have data in front of you. If it's an important decision, really test the data. Ask the follow up question. 


Steve: Do you think you mentioned the ‘18 and ‘20 election? Do you think that we will be able to identify as an electorate, be able to identify and prioritize leaders with the skill set of data driven decision making? 


Richard: No, that's never anything that I think that voters look for most voters. I'm hoping that with the ‘18 and ‘20 election, one thing we'll be able to do is at least identify interference. Now that we know that there was interference in the last election, foreign interference in the last election. Now we'll be looking for it. In the book, Warnings. One of the things we talk about that's a barrier to getting decisions right. When you're talking about something that's never happened before. 


Steve: Right. 


Richard: And we use the fancy term first occurrence syndrome. I think we had in the last election. First occurrence syndrome, where for the first time, a foreign government was trying to manipulate our perceptions prior to an election by manipulating social media news feeds. It was the first time when anyone tried to do that. Well, it's not surprising having large percentages of our population getting news through social media is a relatively new phenomenon, and there was no way designed into that system to monitor and detect and prevent foreign manipulation. Now I think that could be and Facebook is, I think, making some progress in that direction. So when I think of the the next couple of elections, I'm hoping at least that we're looking for data relevant to what happened the last time, which is foreign interference, not just a hacking, but the psychological warfare shaping the perceptions of the voters through micro targeting and using false identities and false information. 


Steve: But what you're talking about is a decision that is based on the same decision methodology of the electorate and just cleaner data to make that decision, I guess. Hope of hope. I was hoping that we would actually evolve our thinking and away from the, we just want to have a beer with this guy too. Hey, we want someone who's going to be looking out for the majority of us. 


Richard: I wish you were right. I'm enough of a realist, I think, to say that you're probably not. 


Steve: Yeah, I think you're right too. Alright, that's the last prepared question before we close. Is there anything else that you'd like to add? 


Richard: Well, I think we're talking about leadership today, and I think leadership works only for a given period of time. One of the things that we all need to think about when we're leaders or when we're following leaders is whether the great contribution that that leader can make has been made and whether they need to move on. I think I spent too long running our counter terrorism program. I think if I had left earlier when the Clinton administration ended, that might have been a better outcome because the Bush administration would have had somebody running terrorism that they might have believed more. So I think for all leaders, you need to understand, you come on board and you infuse energy and you turn the ship and you move it forward. But you can only do that for so long and then you need to go recharge your batteries. It's hard to recharge your batteries when you're running that hard. 


Steve: That's a decent place to conclude on, because in my mind, I think that actually is kind of a fresh take, which is what you're advocating. You've mentioned a couple of websites, but let's make a rundown. Where should the listeners find you and find more information?


Richard: They can go to, and that will get you to all the Cassandra Sites to Cassandra Award. And you'll be able to read a lot of the book for free at that site. We have a teaser for every chapter so you can start out every chapter. Of course you can't finish them without buying the book. 


Steve: Bonus. And I happen to know that there's actually also information on some of the prior books, which I know Warnings is the new thing, but anybody who hasn't read the other ones should definitely be picking those up to because there's a lot, even though they're historical in nature, I think that there's a lot that you can pull out of them for what's going on today. Every single one of them. 


Richard: Yeah, we have large accepts from all the books at the website. 


Steve: And of course, on Amazon as well, right? Okay, Mr. Clarke, let's end here. Thank you very much for your time. I think this is such an informed insight. It's such a pleasure being able to talk to. 


Richard: Well, I enjoyed it very much. I hope your listeners did, too. 


Steve: I think they will mind blowing stuff. Thanks so much. 


Richard: Thank you. Bye bye. 


Steve: Cheers. Bye. 


Outro: This has been Intangibles, a podcast created by Antecedent Ventures. Find out more at


I'd like to thank Dentons Venture Technology Group at for being the sponsor this season and a supportive partner. Operating as a boutique within the world's largest law firm, the venture technology group runs with hard-charging tech entrepreneurs to drive growth, strategic business finance, and legal advice from Silicon Valley and New York to London, Berlin, Hong Kong, and beyond. Learn more at


I'd also like to thank Ben Glawe, who has been instrumental in helping me record and produce this season. I couldn't have done it without him. Find him on Twitter @Visible_Sound. 


And thank you. Keep an eye out for the next episode. And if you like this one, leave us a favorable review.


I'm your host Steve Berg.