For several decades, business executives have been faced with increasing complexity in the global environment, including disruptions, rapid changes, and heightened global pressures. In an effort to maintain a strategic advantage, business leaders are increasingly leveraging geopolitically-focused strategic intelligence teams to accurately and concisely synthesize large quantities of data to support high-level business decision making. However, limited research has been conducted on the organizational development of these teams, the context in which they exist, and how they can most effectively support differing and evolving decision-maker needs. As these teams have the potential to have an outsized impact on global business decision making, this qualitative case study sought to explain, using a systems theory lens, the interdependence of the components involved in building and leveraging geopolitically-focused intelligence teams in U.S.-based private sector MNEs. This case study leveraged a multi-method approach consisting of 3 parts: (a) interviews with 15 former intelligence team members at one large multinational corporation, (b) review of key organizational and policy-oriented documents that guided this team’s operations, and (c) a questionnaire deployed within the private sector intelligence community. The research question guiding this inquiry was: How, if at all, does systems theory explain how geopolitically-focused intelligence teams operate in the private sector? In addressing this research question, the findings and conclusions of this study revealed equifinality and alignment with a systems theory approach; key skills critical to success in the field; and significant barriers that are common throughout the field.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Systems theory; Geopolitics; Intelligence service—United States

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Martine Jago