Tactical, Operational & Strategic Analysis of Markets, Competitors & Industries
I second you. Even in my current working organization, i have had a tough time substantiating the need of CI. Your conversation cum posts are helping me a lot to resolve my queries.
Although this topic is not directly related to librarians I think it is as good a place as any to respond on the role of CI professionals and Monica's critique of librarians.
First, SLA stands for Special Libraries Association. It is NOT an association for city librarians or school librarians but for people working within business, government, etc. It also includes several independent consultants as members - including CI specialists. The SLA CI division has grown considerably (although still smaller than SCIP) as people got disillusioned with the way SCIP was being run. (The fact that SLA has/had a certificated CI course and SCIP didn't is just one example of how the approach of the two organisations differed).
SLA's motto/tag-line is "Connecting People and Information". This is important as it doesn't talk about primary or secondary research but information, and linking this to the people who need it i.e. giving it meaning.
Good CI uses information from both primary and secondary sources - and then analyses it to put meaning onto the information, and so create intelligence. This involves managing information - ensuring that relevant meaning is put onto it. This IS the job of a librarian. Wikipedia defines librarian as "A librarian is an information professional trained in librarian and information science, which is the organization and management of information services or materials for those with information needs." To do this effectively cannot just be reactive, but also needs to be proactive. I've come across such people - who are trained to anticipate the information needs of their users. Any good librarian will not want to wait for an enquiry and then have to forage around for an answer. They will anticipate customer needs so that they can provide the information as it is needed. (In fact often they won't even be employed as librarians in libraries but as analysts, strategy experts, etc, in datacenters or research units, etc.).
Although generally speaking, such a role doesn't include primary research, it can - and sometimes does. A competent librarian will have a list of contacts they can call on to support the needs of their users. Furthermore, many companies now outsource primary research for both practical and ethical reasons (including that calling a direct competitor for primary research may not be allowed by their company, and speaking to an industry expert when giving your company name can lead to bias which would not be the case if the primary research was outsourced). A librarian who is a CI professional is as competent to do this as a non-librarian.
In contrast, a "CI professional" who cannot organise material or manage the information needs of their users (i.e. lacks the skills expected of a librarian) will be poor at CI.
There is also a strong case that says that CI analysis should be separated from CI collection. (Again, to avoid issues of bias). Thus, the SLA should not be dismissed as something irrelevant and not a place for CI professional membership. It actually is potentially a very good home for CI professionals wanting an organisation that seeks to enhance their knowledge and skills.
We have been developing CI tools and approaches since the late 1970's. Our experience is that good CI can only marginally be taught; it is more a matter of personality. Those who will be good at CI have the same characteristics as committed investigative reporters [think Woodward & Bernstein with Watergate]: determined to get at the information, and with the flexibility to think of other channels, when the obvious ones are blocked.
Those channels vary with every case, and in every country [or even state]. Teaching CI 'methodology' by rote is like teaching painting by numbers: you always get the same result; it's always mediocre.
If someone came to my firm brandishing a 'Certificate in CI', that's what I would assume they were: mediocre.
This issue has been discussed a few times here in Israel among CI professionals. We have reached to the conclusion that while CI becomes an academic subject it is probably enough as in other professions. We have here also CI certificate programs, but I'm not sure that they are much appreciated by the relevant managers. I'm definitely against any government license as it is done in private investigations. CI is similar to any other business discipline. Does anyone asking a license from a marketing manager, human resources director and so on? CI is not similar to the legal profession, engineering and the accountancy, which have a long time experience and are recognized totally different. Maybe in the future, when CI will become well established, it will be the right time to discuss this issue again. We are far from that point! Let's face it. We have to make countless efforts to develop CI as a well recognized academic discipline. This seems to me to be our primary priority.
The issue on the front burner appears to be submerged by self-interests and coordinated polarisation to occupational factionalism. I think it would be wise to point out the importance of education, professionally tailored learning programme and structured competence development in capacity building programme for upping career development in Competitive Intelligence. Every component of KSA (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities) required for effective performance on job position as Competitive Intelligence Professional can be identified in order to craft specific acquisition plan. At the end of that, interested candidates would be able to pass through that orifice and become transformed to Experts in Competitive Intelligence. In the area of Competitive Intelligence, emphasis would then be placed on two key developmental requirements namely satisfactory completion of well-regulated professional learning programme and fulfillment of minimal experiential acquirement. This is the way forward!
Dr Elijah Ezendu
If I can see through the fog of 'preliterate hyperlatinisms', I think that what the good Doctor is saying is that taught courses, certificates and degrees are a good thing, and practical work - sorry: ''experiential acquirement'' - is of ''minimal'' value.
If so, then the Doctor's piece shows us just how much he has gained from all that teaching and all those degrees . . . .
I think there's a false notion driven by self aggrandised myth about specific behavioural disposition that must be in accountants, engineers, internal auditors, software architects, leaders and now competitive intelligence professionals, insisting that it must be a closed system which can not be developed. In my practice of HR, Talent Development, Career Analysis and Advancement, Learning and Development as well as Curriculum & Performance Impact Analysis I have seen such intriguing bias, but they finally prove themselves to be falsehood. Best practices give room for identification of key personality profile requirement, then provision for people with natural disposition in demonstration of that personality profile and using learning architects to craft workable professional learning and development programme that includes a developmental framework that engages candidates in practicum for building the required personality profile. This is the solution!
Dr Elijah Ezendu
I think you're right. I don't know how far psychological profiling would go, but it's well worth trying. My experience is that becoming good at CI comes from enjoying it. Some people are put off by the intrusive, morally uncertain aspect of ''poking into other people's business''; others just thrive on the unstructured nature of the work, and the challenge of thinking on your feet. The ones that like it, get good at it; the others drop out.
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