Competitive Intelligence

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

Are We In a Rut, Or Just Reluctant to Share?

Over the last several months, on separate work projects, I have been looking closely at Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, and BCG and how they structure their work and serve their clients. All of these are stellar organizations that succeeed by innovating, expanding the sophistication of their processes, and constantly keeping ahead of their clients (and competitors).

I was struck by the contrast with the CI discipline, where I fear that we are stuck in a rut. Go to any conference and you'll see presenters (myself included) dust off the decades-old intelligence cycle, Porter's Five Forces, etc. Is this the best that we can do? Where is the new thinking? Is anyone innovating out there? While I realize that good CI is a lot more than slick models and methodologies, these are indirect indicators of the level of thinking that goes on within a discipline.

In addition, most of these models are about how to "do" CI, and there seems to be little work done on how to elevate the discipline, build it into the DNA of an organization, or make it an integral part of a company's strategic thinking.

Of course, this type of work may indeed be going on, but practitioners are simply unwilling to share their secrets outside of their organizations. My guess, however, is that this represents only part of the issue, and that the problem runs deeper.

Any thoughts? Am I on-target here or off-base?

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Carolyn Vella and I tried to do that back in Bottom Line Competitive Intelligence in 2002. That book is still in print. We reverse engineered CI to show the links between type of CI, audience, delivery mode and demonstrating/measuring organizational impact.
Thanks John, do you konw when is the book to become available?
It is available from Amazon (hasa been since 2003), SCIP used to carry it in its bookstore, but seems to have elminated that resource, limiting it to SCIP books and reprints.
I originally was impressed by the way that CI professionals shared...when I first joined the profession. After several years, I see this is sometimes true, often not. Lots of generalities in technique, but few specifics. Since many folks are selling their services, they adhere to a magicians code: Show them the trick...give them some patter about it...but never let them see the secret compartment up your sleeve...then charge them to see the trick again.

I attended a webinar about game theory not too long ago, and asked a question about the software necessary to do this. (background...I took a graduate level course in game theory, so although I am not a regular practitioner, neither am I a novice) Rather than mention some of the commercial products available for optimizing game theory problems (generally linear programming), I got a stock answer:

It's worth quoting exactly:
The computations I reported in the webinar were done using a set of tools
that are not available for general distribution. One reason for this is that
the tools need extensive training to use properly; game theory is a complex
subject matter, and the tools are correspondingly complex. Consequently our
business model is to use them in a consulting role to our clients. We have
at times entered into licensing arrangements with partners and clients, but
this requires considerable commitment to gain the necessary training and
expertise.
Translation: that's what you pay US for.

Sometimes I've been impressed by how much folks share the actual under-the-hood process. One of the best at this is Ellen Naylor and her approach to cooperative intelligence.

I think the urge not to share is based on a mistaken idea that we succeed by being the only one who knows how to do something...rather than by being the best at it. I'm not sure that this is why CI is in a rut, though. One aspect of this rut was observed by Ken Sawka recently when he commented with dismay that CI professionals were typically not engaging the executive suite...and vice versa.

It kind of boils down to a mix of "we pass the messages poorly" with "they aren't listening".

In a recent McKinsey survey "HOW COMPANIES RESPOND TO COMPETITOR MOVES", the survey found that most companies just did the obvious response, they did so without much deep analysis, based it on executive gut feeling, and would do it that way again. BTW...they also tended to respond late or not at all, even when given plenty of advanced warning.

That's not everywhere...but it's true for a significant number of firms. Add that to the fact that in many cases, CI and marketing analysis in general are among the first victims of any job cuts.

If CI is about more refined techniques, deeper more insightful analysis, and about anticipatory strategic thinking, that sets us up to be at total odds with the majority of companies in the McKinsey survey above.

I think we got focussed on the sharing side of the rut...but I think there are other reasons, which might include executive attitudes. Also, we spend a lot of time thinking about our HOW TO techniques, and not so much on why it matters, how the company should respond differently, etc. We need to be more about WHY, WHAT IT MEANS, WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT, etc.
You are definitely onto something here. Unfortunately unless the CI community embraces new ideas and stimulates them, they won't be seen. JCIM was supposed to do stuff like that - but of course has been killed off like the excellent CI Review that preceded it (and was one of the reasons I originally joined SCIP). All this means is that CI will stay in a rut until it recognises the importance of high-level academic investigation and development of the discipline. I still can't understand the thinking (or lack of thinking) that allowed JCIM to go. If it wasn't working as an e-journal then look at making it print again, or find out why it wasn't right. Don't kill it without a better replacement.

As for Porter's 5-forces - that's a case in point. Even Michael Porter mentions developments in the revised preface to reprints of Competitive Strategy that are ignored by most CI presenters / practitioners. (E.g. Nalebuff & Brandenberger's ValueNet / Coopertition approaches that I presented at a SCIP conference a year or two ago). When you get to stuff that looks at 21st century business most people outside academia haven't a clue (e.g. Cinzia Parolini's work on value chains).
Bill,

There is much development within CI and CI related disciplines, If I may be as bold as to say so; especially outside of the SCIP network. I think, as others have suggested here on these pages, that this is part of the problem SCIP has been confronted with over the past few years and which has led to its check. It was an organization which needed to open up. As an allegory, take the SCIP homepage, and that for an organization working with information and intelligence. It even makes the CIA’s World Factbook look like rocket science. Of cause it did not make the situation any better when SCIP decided to drop the only peer reviewed journal they had and only do popular articles. There has been a tendency within SCIP to define CI very narrowly, not to catch up on new developments in the field and to ignore what is written and done in countries outside of the US. That is partly why you never saw more than the Intelligence Cycle. To take some examples new models do appear every month or so, much interesting research is being done on the approach between CI and BI, of the enlargement of the CI field, and of cooperation between private and public/state actors. There is also a renaissance of geopolitics and geopolitical thinking in the form of geoeconomics, but most of this is written in French and is seldom translated. Much of this is published either in scientific journals or in foreign languages. Intelligence is at the end about getting to know the other and how they think. SCIP was never a really good model for this task.

Any new constellation with an aspiration to survive in the long run will have to address these issues.

Klaus
Hi Bill,

We are the Best in the Business. What we do has a Client Confidentiality Clause. Nobody, I repeat nobody matches our minds. Do we take credit? No, Our clients take credit. We make the Difference.

Our Insight helps us to read between the lines and extract the Right Information. And when we Analyse the right information, we generate Early Warning.

Early Warning that we generate, is Perception driven.

Yes, we may use SWOT, Five Force Analysis, Benchmarking, RBV Analysis, BCG Matrix etc.. But all these tools are known to every tom,dick and harry. My MBA students study these tools. Every commoner in management around the world knows these tools.

What we are is that we have the "Ability to join the Dots", see the "Larger Picture ( Big Picture)". We have the Ability to "Foresee".

We must focus on our Core Competence is the Ability to Foresee rather than compete with commoners on tools such as SWOT, Five Force, RBV, Benchmarking, which anyways the whole corporate world knows.

Develop Insight. This is the name of the game.
BENCHMARK CIA and Learn!

With due respect to all.

We must learn from the BEST and give them Credit. Take for example CIA

We should Benchmark CIA. Why? Because:

Lets look at CIA's Vision:

One Agency. One Community. An Agency unmatched in its core capabilities, functioning as one team, fully integrated into the Intelligence Community

Lets look at CIA's Mission:

We are the nation’s first line of defense. We accomplish what others cannot accomplish and go where others cannot go. We carry out our mission by:

Collecting information that reveals the plans, intentions and capabilities of our adversaries and provides the basis for decision and action.


Producing timely analysis that provides insight, warning and opportunity to the President and decisionmakers charged with protecting and advancing America’s interests.


Conducting covert action at the direction of the President to preempt threats or achieve US policy objectives.

Lets look at CIA's Core Values:

Service. We put Country first and Agency before self. Quiet patriotism is our hallmark. We are dedicated to the mission, and we pride ourselves on our extraordinary responsiveness to the needs of our customers.


Integrity. We uphold the highest standards of conduct. We seek and speak the truth—to our colleagues and to our customers. We honor those Agency officers who have come before us and we honor the colleagues with whom we work today.


Excellence. We hold ourselves—and each other—to the highest standards. We embrace personal accountability. We reflect on our performance and learn from that reflection.

My Interpretation of COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE by Benchmarking CIA:
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE - VISION

One brotherhood, one community, unmatched in its core capabilities, functioning as one team

COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE - MISSION

We are the Organisation's first line of defense. We accomplish what others cannot accomplish and go where others cannot go. We carry out our mission by:

Collecting information that reveals the plans, intentions and capabilities of our adversaries and provides the basis for decision and action.


Producing timely analysis that provides insight, warning and opportunity to the President and decisionmakers charged with protecting and advancing Organisational interests.


COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE - CORE VALUES

Service. We put Our Organisation first and before self. Quiet and unassuming demeanor is our hallmark. We are dedicated to the mission, and we pride ourselves on our extraordinary responsiveness to the needs of our customers.


Integrity. We uphold the highest standards of conduct. We seek and speak the truth—to our colleagues and to our customers. We honor those Competitive Intelligence officers who have come before us and we honor the colleagues with whom we work today.


Excellence. We hold ourselves—and each other—to the highest standards. We embrace personal accountability. We reflect on our performance and learn from that reflection
Hello Bill,

The topic you are discussing here is very important. Sharing and type of contents are very important.

Looking to the contents….Innovation in CI is something that should be considerate as one of the most important issues. I think that SCIP as other CI associations should explore new field and stimulate new paradigms for CI. I mean that we need new perspective, ideas, and concepts to develop an intensive knowledge around CI.

So…how could we provide these new inputs?. I think that CI should be open to new ideas (even is speculative), analyzing other fields (knowledge management, risk management, etc.) and see how to bridge gabs, understand that CI is not only about the cycle and counterintelligence (management change, business re-engineering, project management, etc.).

We (all) have to create the right space for developing new inputs. For example, during my first SCIP conference in Atlanta, I remember that the society created a posters session in which ideas and other topics were presented in 45 minutes. That was excellent! In 10 minutes I could go around the presentations and listen the one that was more interesting for me this session gave the opportunity to chare new ideas to everybody!

Alessandro
Bill, et al

You're right on the mark. It's interesting that the 9/11 Commission concluded that the greatest failure of US policy and the intelligence community was a "failure of imagination." I wonder if the US intelligence community, with substantially greater budgets, has collectively overcome this failure? And what about the private sector? Perhaps, instead of focusing so much on analytical models, process, and organisational structure, we should concentrate more on deep and original THINKING about what are basic challenges are and what innovations in terms of understanding and solutions we actually need.

Best regards
Douglas
Doug,

When we play with "Pseudo gangs" there is always a danger

Take for example: OBL

Funding : By we all know who (Multinational)

Control / Handler: ISI Quetta Branch

A very smart maneuver by ISI-Quetta cell being the Handler, keeping the Investors (Funding Nations) out of the loop.

[ In lighter vein ]

Kenny Loggins - Danger Zone

Revvin' up your engine
Listen to her howlin' roar
Metal under tension
Beggin' you to touch and go

Highway to the Danger Zone
Ride into the Danger Zone

Headin' into twilight
Spreadin' out her wings tonight
She got you jumpin' off the track
And shovin' into overdrive

Highway to the Danger Zone
I'll take you
Right into the Danger Zone

You'll never say hello to you
Until you get it on the red line overload
You'll never know what you can do
Until you get it up as high as you can go

Out along the edges
Always where I burn to be
The further on the edge
The hotter the intensity

Highway to the Danger Zone
Gonna take you
Right into the Danger Zone

Highway to the Danger Zone

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