Competitive Intelligence

Tactical, Operational & Strategic Analysis of Markets, Competitors & Industries

I currently have a job offer for a CI position (see attached for whom concerned) in Cambridge, MA and found quite a dry market until now. Do you share this view point in your area?

Recruiting CI employees seems to differ from filling many other positions in the sense the CI functions require a broad range of skills ranging from technical skills (to understand products, innovation), to marketing skills (to understand why competition is acting is such a way), to communication (both written and verbal) and to intellectual skills (going from analysis to synthesis thoughts).

From instance, the set of skills required for hiring a chemical or software engineer is quite well defined, but I may say I am quite speechless for defining the CI hiring Do's and Don'ts if any. What are your thoughts?

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Hi Chris: I agree with you that hiring for CI positions is more difficult than for better defined positions in fields that are more fully established and accepted. Part of this problem is CI not achieving "professional" status. This occurs due to (among other things) our lack of an agreed upon definition for our field, the lack of an agreed-upon set of competencies for performing common CI roles (although this is being addressed presently by a task group under Dr. John Prescott's direction under the CI Foundation), the lack of an agreed upon educational program, and the lack of certification/licensure, and the lack of commonly developed standards of practice for the field. I have done a fair amount of research and writing in these areas (I address CI falling short of the requirements of professional fields in chapter 3 of my 2003 book "Controversies in CI" that I did with Dr. David Blenkhorn of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada) and feel as though many of these "impediments" can be overcome; having stated that, it will be many years before that likely occurs, if ever. In the meanwhile, employers and job-seekers have to deal with these matters on a case by case basis. It is not efficient, but it can achieve satisfactory levels of effectiveness.
Craig: Thank you for your explanatory note. Indeed I found few universities providing pure CI courses albeit these courses are generally incorporated within MBA curriculum. Most of the the universities I refer to are in Canada.

I am guessing good CI persons, when seeking for job, also use their CI skills and may found out this thread of discussion ;-).
I've found that you often have two choices with CI folk: do you hire a person who knows CI (and train them in your domain) or do you hire a person who knows your domain (and train them in CI)?

Interestingly, Bruce Schneier had a piece in his blog and on wired about something similar, what he called the "Security mindset." He wrote (I paraphrase)

"Security requires a particular mindset...This kind of thinking is not natural for most people.....I've often speculated about how much of this is innate, and how much is teachable. In general, I think it's a particular way of looking at the world, and that it's far easier to teach someone domain expertise -- cryptography or software security or safecracking or document forgery -- than it is to teach someone a security mindset."

Personally, I've found that CI requires a "particular mindset" as well. I would never suggest hiring a person who knows nothing at all about your domain, but I've found that good CI people tend to ramp up quickly; it seems to be sort of inherent in good CI people, for what that's worth. Just my two cents.
Kieran, the divide between someone who knows CI and someone who knows the industry is a very valid one. I have found that non-CI hiring managers have a strong preference for someone with industry knowledge and experience over demonstrated CI expertise. I'll acknowledge my own bias that the CI skills and enthusiasm for the practice are probably the more important skill set in reality.

I whole-heartedly agree with Craig's post that CI is not seen as a profession because of the lack of a core defined set of skills, capabilities and competencies. This is something that is a high priority for our practice to address.
One of the struggles for CI Professionals is the very issue you bring up. The first hurdle is having a broad range of understanding in the areas you mentioned. Deeply analytical, strong communications, quantitative, technical, creative, and bold enough to tackle new areas and master them quickly. With just a dash of philosopher/moral scientist to be able to abstract around complex ethical questions that test the limits of simplistic policies on a routine basis.

For good CI analysis, the learning curve is long but the average person in the field is in-and-out at the 2 to 3 year timeframe. Simultaneously, companies seem interested in the kind of CI Professional that is relatively inexperienced with focussed experience in their industry. It takes some very significant WINS to generate the credibility for companies to trust your analysis.

It's a strange discipline. Another challenge is the blurring of nomenclature between competitive intelligence (which may use internal sources, but is externally focussed) and business intelligence (which typically focusses on internal data mining for insights).

The "dry market" may be there for the hiring manager who has difficulty in finding quality candidates with the broad variety of skills needed, but the CI job seeker has a particular problem as well. The "target market" for a CI analyst is fairly large companies with headquarters in the local area. CI is seldom established in the regional or branch office, and the company must be large enough to devote at least 50% of a full-time resource to CI. Companies without the sophisticated strategic vision to realize their need for an organized CI function will not have such a position on their staff. Many metro areas may have fairly few such target companies to choose from, and the market thins even more after a downsizing or restructure or two. Eventually the only option remaining is independent add significant sales and client service skills to the "desirable skills" list.
I myself fit the profile described by Mark (2 years experience at a large multinational company, reaching the "maturity level" of CI and industry learning curve) and I could not agree more with all the listed skills.

I would just like to enhance the "analytical/quantitative" skills... CI really requires an "organized mindset" to collect, store and process data into information. Step two (transforming info in intelligence) requires "communication and syntheses skills". Given that, I believe computer skills would pull "Proficiency in Excel and Power Point" or similar.
I am openly Pro-CI in this opinion, so know my biases.

I'd take a dedicated aficionado of competitive intelligence any day over an industry expert. In a superconnected global market place, business success does not come from simply outfoxing the same four competitors you've always had. Good strategy comes from seeing threats and opportunities from a broad range of factors. The true competitive intelligence expert thrives on putting together a broad set of data and decoding the mysteries of market dynamics. More often than not, an industry expert will import their biases into their market projection.

This is why CI is a profession. It involves a set of analytical skills that can't be taught and refined in a weekend - it takes a career.

I think that the way job descriptions change in organizations - nearly constantly - it would be unwise to define CI too rigidly, but there are certainly basic skills. Research, ethics, trend assessment, implications, scenarios, game theory, and other capabilities that would add up to a professional you'd like on your team.

Yes, such skills are hard to find in one person. Perhaps that's why I enjoy hanging with CI professionals - they are often a whole bunch of useful characteristics in one person.

Here endeth the feelgood lecture.

Hi Chris,

Not sure what the answer is to be honest. For example, here in Australia and partcularly in Western Australia, CI is practically an unheard-of animal.

Hence, when I'm scoping new analysts and consultants, I tend to look for the capacity to think rather than the skill base. In this way, I try to find staff who are natural fits for the role, despite having no/few directly relevant skills first up.

For me, particularly in the consulting field, the ability of my staff to think greatly outweighs any formal knowledge or training they may have.
And what do you think about the following instructive picture?


I will choose a person with an ability to fly below the radar, with "thinking outside the box".
It ( ) is sometimes very risky

, ;-)

Incidentally, I see that also you, Vivek, like to play with words.
Tad Sir,

As you are aware, a key element of all management is being able to anticipate what competitors, employees and customers are likely to do next, in the context of a rapidly changing wider world.

So how are we different?

It will not be wrong to say in this context that Competitive Intelligence cutting edge lies in "Insight".

Therefore when we manage uncertainity, risks, diverse global trends, emerging market opportunities etc ie Mitigate Risks and generate early Warning, we are "Corporate Astrologers".


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