Competitive Intelligence

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

Early Warning: How to perform a 360 degree scanning process

There are two main perspective when talking about Early Warning:

1) The "focused mode" Early Warning: the firm has identified a specific topic to follow and anticipate (ej. technology, a new competitor, an alliance etc.). Under this perspective Comai and Tena (2006) propose their own model. (see attached article)

2) The "scanning mode" Early Warning: you are not aware were the opportunities or threats will come from.

The first type is the one more discussed in CI. In contrast, the second type less. I am interesting to explore potential techniques and approach about the second type in which organizations fight the true ambiguity of the environment. Day and Schoemaker (2006;51) suggested the directed and the undirected scanning process.

Following I will list several techniques that may related to the 360 degree scanning process (this list has been developed thanks to the contribution of the people that have partecipated in this forum):

A) Leveraging human networks (internal and external) to obtain new rumors.
B) Utilizing softwares that are able to perform multi searches in structured and unstructured databases (invisible web is one possible source).
C) Analyze systematically the environment with new /different frameworks. The objective is gaining new insights from those areas that have not been previously explored (ej. Cantrell, R. (1999). “The Six Angles of Competition.” Competitive Intelligence Review, (10)3:51-57.) You may also interested in Fleisher and Bensoussan's book titled "Business and Competitive Analysis: Effective Application of New and Classic Methods". There are plenty of analysis techniques able to uncover hidden markets opportunities or threats.
D) Use cross functional teams to share knowledge and brainstorm new firm’s related issues identified as opportunities and threats. (see Fox, K (2006) “Invisible competition”. Competitive Intelligence Magazine, 9(5):41-43.
E) E) Utilize a variety of divergent techniques. Visual representation or methods, for instance support the creation of new ideas regarding a particular landscape. These instruments can be embedded into an analysis process. A good source for identifying which technique work best for you is the Visual Periodic Table (


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Hello Alessandro

Have you taken a "live cycle" of products into account?

Hi Sandra,

thanks for your kind reply. Do you mean that the "live cycle" of products could help in setting up a more wider scanning process?

Hi Alessandro

If you have the live cycle idea of your product and you see a new product coming up, you can start to estimate the future of this new product. There are 3 main scenarios: this new product will be very successful, modest successful or not successful at all. If you look at it in the beginning, you can try to fit this answer into it according to its development. This could be helpful for early warning, as you do not ignore the new product but take its development into account. In this context I think it could be helpful.

There are some examples where new product developments were not analyzed (digital camera was one of them). This lack of analysis resulted in failure of other producers to catch up with the market later. With a focus on the development of new products along with the analysis of its functions, the moment of reaction could come earlier.

Hi Sandra,

I think the example of digital camera fits extremely well into the type of analysis you have proposed. It could be related to the idea of disruptive technology proposed by Christensen.

However, I think that this type of Early Warning goes to the focused mode type. Being aware about a new potential product is indeed the focus and the company can therefore act accordingly.

I try to understand and identify possible techniques that help managers detect and anticipate the disruptive changes, products, business models or technologies. Regarding the case of digital camera on of the challenger was to understand potential technology that could subsidizes the reflex camera. (By the way… I am not considering any type of manager's/firm's blindness or myopia involved).


PS: I am modifing the above text with a preliminary list of ideas.
Hi Alessandro
Thanks for your explanations.
I know the books from Christensen and indeed it goes into this direction but not exactly, as you can observe the PLC independendly of disruptive innovations or technologies. Also it does not have to be a "disruptive product", it is possible to observe any product and compare with the own PLC or with timelines. You can also use this kind for your No 2) in the above list I guess.
As I have seen also an enterprise focusing just on the far away future, it could be added a No 0) for creating awareness of the EW problem to management.
I just think loud, may be you can use a bid of my input.
Hi Sandra,

Your contribution is very important. I have changed a little bit the main above text according to your notes. I think that there are plenty of techniques that can be used to reduce corporate blindness. PLC is on of them. Grate.

Hi Alessandro,

First of all, thanks for inviting me to this group.

I do completely agree with you in the two ways of scanning the environment. You can not predict, in advance, all what can happen. If you could do that you could be better off playing Euromonillion or any similar lottery and please give me the chance to win just once ;)

I read a very good book last year, which has some tips on how to do this passive scanning. The book is called Peripheral Vision by Shoemaker and Day. Among the advise there was in this book I can remember:

1) Change the sources or consider new sources of information to get new pictures

2) Talk frequently to lead users and precursors. Because they should know where the new technologies or fashions are going

3) Research frequently price sensitive customers. They should know what can disrupt your business model.

4) Talk to people in your organization, who generally have different points of view. As a means to get less biased.

5) How is the share of wallet considering substitutes evolving

6) Customers who are unsatisfied with our services or products. Since they might sign that we are not taking into account something important going on on the market.

In any event, I would advise that you also have to conduct a blindspot analysis when you set up your early warning, because you can not be alerted on something that you do not perceive.

I hope it helped!

Hi Adrian,

Very nice! Using a variety of sources and research techniques helps uncover new opportunities and threats.

Hi Alessandro
If this can help you this is a pleasure for me.

Hi Adrian
I just wanted to drop you a note as you mentioned "Blindspot Analysis" for books. There is Ben Gilad: "Business Blindspots: Replacing Your Company's Entrenched and Outdated Myths, Beliefs and Assumptions With the Realities of Today's Markets" coping with this issue. He also wrote a book about Early Warning. May be this sources are interesting for you - may be you know them already - as you mentioned Shoemaker. For checking the environment you can also find tipps from Fuld in "The new Competitor Intelligence", a handbook.

Hi Sandra,

Thanks a lot for your suggestions!

I have read all these three books, among others of course.

If you happen to be in San Diego in April let me know. Maybe we can meet up with Alessandro and others to talk about early warning. Alessandro, Seena Sharp and myself will be speaking on early warning there with three slightly different points of view.

Best regards,

Hi Adrian

Unfortunately I will not be able to meet in San Diego in April as I am busy between Basel, Zurich, and Aarau (Switzerland). Nevertheless, thank you for your kind invitation, which I would have been glad to accept.

Hi Sandra,

Das ist wirklich Schade!

Ich wollte mal mein Schwizerdütsch üben!

Eigentlich, ich habe nie richtig Schwizerdütsch gesprochen.;) zu schwierig, glaube ich...

Dann werde ich mit Rainer Michaeli, sicherlich in San Diego auf Deutsch reden! Eigentlich Rainer is der einzige mit dem ich auf Deutsch rede

Beste Grüsse und hoffen wir dass wir eines mal treffen. Die Schweiz ist wirklich schön und es ist eine lange her dass ich nicht dorthin gehe...

Ich werde Ihnen, falls Sie es wollen, meine Präsentation senden. Aber nur auf Englisch ;)



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