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 Vivek,

Yes sure! I totally agree! I am not eliminating the analysis process at all.

When I am talking about data, clues and other kind of information I am discussing the inputs of any CI function. In other words, these inputs are the “raw material” for the analysis process.

I appreciate your observation about how important is analysis in CI. This point allows me introduce to introduce a second point which is the individual perspective. Gilad discussed the blindspots in one of his book and other authors described the same topic using biases, myopia or cognitive dissonance. This point is tremendously important during when selecting which information is important for the project/topic (in a focused process) or organization (either in a focused or not focused process).

Information becomes relevant for the organization when it has been accepted from the observer. Acceptance include knowledge and analytical skills.

Hello Sheila,

I agree that you need an analysis process for interpreting and evaluate which is the possible impact of new changes, anomalies, etc. However, I believe that a company is not able to detect this signs you are no able to put them in the analytical process. .

As you mentioned, scenario is a very powerful tools, as for instance role playing or war gaming. All of them are able to pinpoint new fields/areas (maybe not detected before) and which can be analyzed from CI professionals. This is what I consider tools and techniques that are applied to change the prospective in a focused early warning system.



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