Competitive Intelligence

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

Lawyer pens "Competitive Intelligence for Dummies" Having no experience in the field whatsoever

Well it was just a matter of time.  A Texas professor and trial lawyer of 14 years (Dr. Jim Underwood) with what I can tell he has ZERO experience in Competitive Intelligence has reduced our Profession to "Competitive Intelligence for Dummies"  Now available at an Amazon web site near you. Author: Dr. Jim Underwood.  He has penned other books.  Looks like a way to grab a fast buck--oh he is a lawyer.  What an insult

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The primary low end job threat has to do with Library and Information Science's relationship to CI – it is a field that benefits from CI, but contributes little to the discipline. This is CI's elephant in the room.

Corporate librarians were necessary in the 1980's for CI because information retrieval was complicated – the CI wolf was dependent on the librarian sheep. This is no longer necessarily the case, as info retrieval has simplified and information is abundant. The sheep started calling themselves wolves, though few sheep could develop the requisite wolf mentality. The sheep-in-wolves-clothing degraded the wolves standing in the corporate world, compensation scale, and esprit de corps.

The criticism here is very unfair.  I know Jim Underwood, and though he has other interests, he HAS been active in CI since at least the mid 90s.

I was the Dallas SCIP Chapter Chairperson for 9 years, and we had Jim Underwood up to speak to our chapter a couple of times.  This was in the 2003-2007 timeframe as close as my memory can tag it.  In addition, sometime in the 2008-2010 period, Jim tried to start a SCIP chapter in San Antonio.  At that time, the chapter in Houston had been inactive for about 7 or 8 years, and Austin's chapter was inactive, but still on the books. 

SCIP had a rule at that time that you needed to have a list of 15 people interested in the chapter.  He had 8 or 10 folks and was going to run zero-cost events to build interest.  SCIP said no.  Frankly I was P-O'd because Dallas was the ONLY active chapter south of St. Louis, from Atlanta to LA.  At that time, Chicago was inactive, Kansas City had just gone under, and I accused the management of SCIP "to their faces" of using herbicide to fuel their "grass roots" development.  Texas has more Fortune 500 headquarters than any other state, but Houston and San Antonio had no SCIP Chapter and SCIP was discouraging chapter expansion.  They also harrassed the Dallas chapter on a fairly nonstop basis the whole time I was the chapter head.

Personally, I had noted several years ago that there was no CI FOR DUMMIES book, even though there was one for nearly every other off-beat interest known to man.  I aspired to write one but the "DUMMIES" folks say they don't accept outside submissions, and if you pitch a book to them, they reserve the right to give it to a different author.  I'd discussed it with a couple of people, including Ellen Naylor, but eventually decided I wasn't ready to do it.  I haven't talked with Jim about the book, but I got a copy the instant it was available.  I was generally pleased, though several of the criticisms are fair. 

Jim Underwood may not have the name recognition of some of the folks mentioned in this discussion.  But he has been active in the discipline for years.  He may have avoided SCIP, but recent years, so have I.  SCIP lost my trust years ago, and I suspect Jim has similar reasons to avoid them.  This part of the criticism is unfair.  In a lot of ways, the CI for Dummies book is a worthy addition to my library.  It's better than several other books I've bought recently, and there are very few recent books which offer a comprehensive overview of the discipline.  

Give the guy a break.  It's not a perfect book...but it's going to be very helpful to the newcomer and maybe even the mid-level practitioner.

I bought the book, read it handed out to all my people and they read it.  I gave it to one of my new hires, she said it gave her nothing as it lacked depth.  She saw threads of concepts she learned in College but he (Underwood) changed them for some reason.  I agree there are concepts and models that resemble standard industry models, like Michale Porter's five forces, but he fails to cite Michale Porter and instead chooses to adapt Porter's work and change it.  This is throughout the book.  The paragraph that states "Send your people to Tradeshows to reward them" is laughable.  Trade shows are an important resources and very hard work.  If you want to write a book, you need to cite source, not use material and disguise it as your own as implied in this book.  I stand by my review. Did you read this book?   This was a review about a book not about SCIP.  I think you are mixing concepts here. 

The main concept was that he was involved in SCIP as far back as the early 90s, presented to our SCIP chapter on at least two occasions, and attempted to establish a SCIP chapter at one point, achieving organizational resistance to the latter effort.

The secondary point was that lack of name recognition should not infer he had little to do with the profession.  Notoriety is not a desirable skill for practitioners, and people have very valid reasons for avoiding the "professional association" which provides the only notoriety folks in this discipline ever get.  If you add a negative experience with SCIP to the's not surprising he decided he had better uses of his time.

Should he have kept certain concepts distinct and cited sources better?  I don't have a problem with those criticisms.  But the headline at the top of the discussion says NO EXPERIENCE IN THE FIELD WHATSOEVER.  The first paragraph says ZERO EXPERIENCE...FAST BUCK.  That is more a criticism of the person than the book.  And if you think it's a "fast" buck to write a book, especially for an entrenched publisher with an established format and an army of editors...that's truly laughable. 


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