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What Can We Learn from Crime Fiction in Business Analysis?

Crime fiction never sleeps. A mere Google result yields an estimated 25-40% of the fiction genre in print, is attributed to crime fiction novels and novella, yearly. These heavyweight numbers pull no punches when dominating the publishing market and continue to churn out as newcomer and veteran authors delve into this twisty and plot-driven genre. Elsewhere, crime fiction slams the gavel in landmarking the entertainment world, between streaming, regularly scheduled programmed television, even cinema. Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Paramount, Hulu, and the continual alphabet of platforms and movie studios, in their consistent battles of streaming wars, are armed to the teeth with crime fiction remaining a mainstay in their marquee content arsenals.

As we draw out the novice philosophical schemas of “good versus evil”, “crime never pays”, as a business analyst, it is prudent to discover the deeper meaning to be found when you read between the lines. Being in the field of business analysis, I swiftly became cognizant of the ensconced parallels to the realistic work I was taking on, to the fictitious roles I observed in the media mediums I had been consuming. I connected the role of a crime fiction detective to a realistic business analyst. Comparatively, likening my performance to that of taking on cases in the form of projects, occasionally multiple at a time, my goal became synonymous with solving a case. The project is the case and the mystery to solve is how to make said project successful. It became incredulously captivating to think of myself as a detective versus a business analyst and begin to observe the methods as seen on TV or read in books and apply them to my work. Of course, it is without saying that I remain a business analyst and do not self-aggrandize myself to a fictitious character, nor do I claim to know the experience of working in the field of law enforcement, crime, and the like.



Think of some of the critically acclaimed TV shows out in the media: HBO’s The Wire, NBC’s Law and Order. Both of which are fictitious series’ that give us realism of what it is like to be ingrained in the world of crime, law, and law enforcement. However, take away the dramatic elements that make for good television and you get a stripped-down version that provides us certain core concepts to business analysis:

  • Ask questions: Detectives and investigators ask questions to gain information, to elicit leads, to make a break in the case. They are relentless in this practice. They talk to witnesses, colleagues, bosses, citizens, experts…the list goes on. Are we, as BA’s, not the same? Business analysts ask questions of various people to gain information, to elicit solutions, and identify the best outcome to complete their project (aka “solve the case”). Without questions on both career fronts in opposing ends, do they lose out on the objective they so wish to achieve: solving the mystery.
  • Investigate all possible outcomes: Through the commonplace term “police work”, crime fiction utilizes investigatory measures to observe every outcome. They examine patterns, evidence, trends, ask questions. They fiercely formulate hypotheses, postulate outcomes, and supplement their findings. Business analysts parallel these actions. Asking questions leads us to garnering information, making progress on our projects, and creating our own theories. It helps to solve the mystery. It does not mean you need to carry a notebook and jot down interview notes, but it is not a bad idea! Sometimes the best ideas come when we least expect it, and how often do we need to write it down, lest we forget later?
  • Be resilient: The term “hard-boiled” is not just used in breakfast to describe how eggs are made. It can also refer to the manner of how resilient detectives are. They keep shaking the metaphorical tree until something tangible comes out. They are tenaciously relentless in their work and strive to put forth their best effort to solve and make the grade. Shouldn’t business analysts be the same in this regard? As a BA/detective, one should not give up when the project seems to fall off track or when we hit an impasse in our efforts. Rather, we should work to “hard boil” ourselves and push through, for it may be the resiliency that wins the day and makes the project successful. This, by no means, encourages the copious consumption of caffeine and late nights that are often portrayed in crime fiction: know your limit but keep yourself resilient.
  • Follow-through: This is a common mistake that business analysts can make without realizing it. One of which, even I fail at, at times. Observe in some of the crime dramas you watch or fiction you may read on how often that detectives follow through on their leads, with their colleagues, with their bosses. They make the decision but often, they stick with their decision, right or wrong. They vehemently stand by their actions. As BA’s your decision, right, wrong, indifferent and within bounds, be sure to practice the concept of follow through on them. Talk to your own colleagues, bosses, experts and gather up the information you are seeking. Remember to ask questions and stand by what you decide. Learn from the as those we revere to be real and glean from them the power of follow-through.

There you have it: case closed. In the glorified world of crime fiction, we unpack useful key points that, as business analysts, can utilize in the field that mirrors what we see on television. Try this in your business analysis role, and see what comes of it: will you find that your cases (projects) are solved more efficiently, quicker, or with a bit of added flair to make your job more fun? Let me know, I would love to hear how these apply to you! And, if there is anything else that might be learned from crime fiction and crime drama applicable to business analysis, share with myself and others.

Jake Thompson

I have been in the role of business analyst since September 2020. I previously worked in a financial institution's retail banking division following my undergraduate studies and earned my Master in Business Administration (MBA) while doing so. I have learned a plentiful amount while being a BA but also am opening to learning. I strive to take realistic topics and apply them to my role and be able to share that experience with others. In my spare time, books are my incredibly favorite hobby, among traveling, hiking, and occasionally writing.