Competitive Intelligence

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

ICI / ATELIS Competitive Intelligence Conference - Bad Nauheim, Germany - April 5-8

I'm attending the ICI / ATELIS CI conference in Bad Nauheim, Germany this week and thought I'd open a discussion here to surface a few topics and issues, as well as to act as a group liveblog for anybody who'd care to add remarks from the meeting itself or questions and comments from afar.

So far today, I've spent more time catching up with old friends (hi Sheila!) than I have in sessions, but promise to attend more as the conference kicks off. I'll also get these onto my Twitter stream.

Still, I can only be in one place at a time, so with four tracks to cover, hopefully a few other of you out there will join in and perhaps consider keeping your notes here on this discussion. I know there are many of you who are attending live.

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Currently listening in to Prof. Christian Bourret's presentation on CI certification for career development - pretty interesting in lieu of the SCIP/ACI announcement recently. The French seem to be furthest along in defining standards for performance and professionalism, but then that's not terribly surprising, is it?!

Of course, the French approach elevates a level of performance expectations that not many could probably meet and, therein, it seems to find a level of value to those seeking the credential that really matters. French universities reflect the notion of government by standards and are difficult, not only to succeed in, but to even matriculate to.

The point was made that, if you have standards for certification of practitioners, that doesn't necessarily mean that it conveys that standard to the organization who seeks to have its practitioners certified. Simply saying something is "quality" doesn't necessarily translate to defined standards and norms - there needs to be a profession-wide definition of those norms and standards more for there to be any credibility to a professional credential which might be conveyed to a practitioner and, through that practitioner, to the organization they serve. The rigidity of technocracy in France makes for an interesting lens through which to see CI certification as well.

Thanks for this Arik. I can keep track of what's going on and also participate when able. Awesome.

Thank you, Arik!


Very much appreciated indeed!

After a lovely lunch, I'm reconvening with Dr. Klaus Heinzelbecker, former Director of Strategic Planning at BASF on Unknown Unknowns - coined by Donald Rumsfeld February 12, 2002 - the things we didn't know we didn't know - also referenced The Black Swan from Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Karl Popper on Falsification posited that there is no hypothesis that can be proven correct in all circumstances - you can only prove a hypothesis false. Experts are biased toward believing they know everything or have issues under control, but the real danger is in their false assumptions based on limited experience. David Dunning on Self Insight - a mental disorder known as anosognosia is a condition in which a person who suffers from a disability seems unaware or denies the existence of the disability - the Dunning-Kruger effect refers to our incompetence which masks our ability to recognize our incompetence.

Blind spots at the executive level - the Johari Window - refers to each of the cognitive managerial failures of the past decade - the dot-com bubble, US housing and auto crises, bank crashes and financial crisis, German department stores, etc. With an unknown unknown, we don't even know which questions to ask.

"It's not important what you know, it's important to ask the right questions" - Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002

[Side-note: Just a couple of weeks ago at Aurora's last management summit, we were discussing how great analysis asks more questions than it answers... hmmm! Anyhow... back to the speech.]

Quad-chart on Known/Unknown bilaterally - known/knowns are for business analysis, known/unknowns are for market and business forecasting, unknown/knowns are knowledge management, but unknown/unknowns are addressed by the following...

How economists deal with the unknown - the German Economic Institute (DIW) actually gave up trying to predict GDP-growth after being wrong in their forecasts. Market researchers blame the statistics when they're wrong, planners simply don't plan beyond a year, controllers blame the market researchers, economists and planners. Strategy consultants simply explain to management there are different possible futures and then leave it up to management to make the wrong decision.

Intelligence people (on the other hand) have conceptual and methodological approaches - STEEP, trend breaks (when trendextrapolation breaks down unexpectedly), paradigm shifts (from Toyota PRIUS to Tata Nano), Five Forces, Blue Oceans (not either differentiation or low-cost, but both), strategic wargaming to prepare for unexpected competitor moves.

Monte Carlo simulations and other traditional risk assessments depend on the nominal data input to the system, so they're unreliable in preparing for the unexpected. Scenario analysis is a better method for evaluating alternative futures. Wildcard scenarios additionally enable decision-makers to think about the supposedly impossible - if dreams and/or nightmares might come true.

Early warning systems help overcome the challenge of weak signals - the first idea they pursued at BASF was called BASIKS: the BASF Early Warning System - managers would input the issues or factors that could impact the business, overnight people throughout the firm would comment and rank these issues and factors, then those which were ranked very high importance were sent up to upper management for consideration. The system created some very interesting insights - anticipating competitor moves, etc. But cultural and personnel issues started to impact the usability - internal politics had to be overcome.

BASF tried creating "think tanks" but noticed there were already thousands around. So, they built STRATTNET instead - the Strategic Think Tank Network - by aggregating the thousands of think tanks in the US and Europe into a Meta Think Tank where the ideas of all the others were gathered together.

Finally, "Socrates for the Intelligence Manager - I know that I don't know - be aware of limitations, only those are wise who know they don't know - those who know they don't know are far wiser than those who believe they know everything.

Replace false knowledge with simple curiosity. 

Very helpfu, Arik! It reminds me that groups and teams many times collaborate best when an issue is framed as "some thing I don't know or that I need helpful with."  This often prompts an altruistic tendency to try and help out fellow colleagues. This gets harder when we don't know we don't know.
Write/right on Arik! It has long been suggested that true curiosity begins as an act of analysis.  The range of methods, tools and techniques to deal with knowns & unknowns is much larger than any of us are capable of utilizing. Yet without significant portions of curiosity, humility, self-understanding, and confidence (not to mention sufficient informational inputs in various forms), far too many questions will remain unanswered or answered unsatisfactorily.
Thanks Arik and the learning point for me was the cultural willingness to 'give it a go' and the cultural acceptance from other members to input into the signal taxonomy....agree with the sentiment that the politics can soon take over....
Thanks a lot. Very interesting.

Next up, Mr. Dirk Frohberger from Bosch Solar Energy on Competitive Intelligence in an Emerging and Dynamic Industry: Practical Insight from the Solar Industry. After some introductory remarks about Bosch and its overall business profile, Dirk mentioned that Bosch Solar Energy is the smallest unit but is also the most dynamic - literally, making sand into energy.

Due to the capital intensity of the industry, planning, forecasting and analytic methods are very strongly valued as a means to reduce uncertainty in decision making. The solar energy market and competitive landscape is driven by very strong, but unequal growth worldwide - as European growth slows (CAGR 4% 2010-2015 forecast) versus Norther America (~41%) and APAC (26%). However, PV (photovoltaic) installations are highly volatile - market growth is significantly depended on legislative changes (feed-in-tariffs) and have caused pull-forward effects. This whip-saw of growth surges makes it very difficult to do supply chain planning for Bosch - the more political an industry is, the greater uncertainty around government mandates to drive growth via incentives.

Solar business globally is still highly competitive and fragmented - Chinese players as low-cost producers have become dominant, because there is very low potential for differentiation between players.Top 10 players only have 50% market share and four of them are Chinese (Dirk answered my question about where Bosch fits as about #15 or #16).

Supply and demand analysis needs to be very carefully looked at in order to avoid a massive oversupply crisis. Dirk expects there to be an eventual shake-out and consolidation, but Bosch hopes to have the deep pockets to survive that - the smaller, single-business providers will go under first. I redirected him a little with a question here about bubble economics and how clean/green energy is the only industry big enough to absorb the last (financial and housing industry) bubble. But timing is a tremendous issue - will it come in 2011 or 2012? Dirk said 2008 was a terrible year, then they all thought 2010 would be the year consolidation takes the floor out from everyone; instead 2010 was a tremendous growth year - 130% growth for Bosch, much much more for some competitors.
Most of the applications - input/output research/analysis - were the usual fare - cost benchmarking, value chain bottleneck analysis, company profiles, ad hoc reports, and a few others.
The Bosch model of strategic planning starts with the corporate targets of the parent corporation based on the business environment and competitive analysis as well as the value enhancement model, then develops the value creation model with market and product field targets and from this generates actions to be accomplished in terms of both orientation toward new markets as well as adjustment of the value creation model. Critical success factors - deep pockets because it's very capital intensive, manufacturing expertise (Bosch has 50 plants worldwide), integration with other business units, etc. From this CSF inventory, the value creation model looks (from the perspective of the solar energy industry now as a new business growth area) at the core competencies of Bosch to then see if they could bring something long-range differentiable to the solar market.

Thank you very much Arik!

ok, I join in by talking about the other sessions running in parallel I attended...

In parallel to the Bosch Solar Energy presentation done by Dirk Frohberger there was an interesting panel discussion about “Story telling as reporting? How to get complex issues across” The panel was moderated by Martin Ainsworth and experts discussing have been Andrew Garrett, Rüdiger Buchkremer, Audy Kenap and Arthur Weiss.

Arthur Weiss started by giving some nice real examples about story telling and how to use it to tell senior managers ideas they don’t want to hear in the first place.

There was quite some activity from within the audience discussing that story telling is an art not everyone is able to perform and you should only do it when you feel comfortable as a story teller

Rüdiger Buchkremer mentioned that there are managers who prefer hard facts and balance scorecards instead of story telling, so you have to know the manager you are talking to when choosing the way of presentation

There was a lot of discussion about the fact that routine power point presentations are not working any longer as its way to easy to copy&paste hard facts from all over the place without providing a real flow of intelligence

There are three kinds of story telling

  1. the one to open the managers mind for ”blind spots” – by using Metaphors
  2. the one looking at the past and tell about lessons learned = Case Studies
  3. the one lokking into the future and answering the what-if Question = Scenarios

When thinking about story telling you have to develop a smooth flow from the beginning to the end and keep in mind what you want to reach with your story. People are always capable of remembering three facts so don’t overwhelm them with a lot of information and talking around

Address all senses: not only visuals, but also emotions which are the most important. If there is o empathy no hard facts, no matter how good they are will convince management

There was some discussion if different cultures are reacting different to story telling and if it works better in cultures where business is not only related to hard facts, but to relationships and there was agreement that you need to know your audience when choosing the way you want to get across your issues

Someone mentioned "The back of the Napkin" as an interesting book which provides a lot of insights about how to sell ideas with pictures, so I might add this to my reading list

All in all it was a quite active and interesting panel discussion providing some interesting insights for me into story telling

Hi Alex - thank you! Excellent summary - I'd hoped to sit in on that one but had a conflict so was torn away. By the way, apologies for stepping into your session late and then having my phone go off and stepping out - I'd been awaiting an urgent call and, lo and behold, there it was. Please forgive me! I'd been hoping to meet you today - if you'll be at dinner tonight, then I'll see you in a few minutes!


- Arik


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