Competitive Intelligence

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

Should Competitive Intelligence Practitioners be Futurists?

I believe, we cannot set boundaries for the Intelligence we generate and the competitive edge we get is because of Insight.

Therefore we are Futurists.

Futurists are those experts who advise private and public organizations on:

1. Diverse global trends
2. Risk management
3. Emerging market opportunities.

Since the KEY of all management is being able to anticipate what competitors, employees and customers are likely to do next, in the context of a rapidly changing wider world.

What are your opinions?

I remember, President George Bush once said, "Dissent is healthy in Democracy".

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For more, please see everything I have ever written.

The answer is far less difficult than may be imagined. Good CI reveals the reality of today, of which most businesspeople are unaware. What they know is really dated, so when the present is described, it often appears to be the future. Bottom line: keeping up with the present (which involves far less risk) enables a company to be ahead of the curve and appear more future-focused to customers. This would not be attractive to innovative companies, but can be part of a very successful strategy for most firms.

I disagree with your premise that the key is anticipating what competitors will do. Management's job is to increase revenue and profits. The best way to do this is to provide what customers will buy and to constantly satisfy their changing needs / desires. Since so few businesses do this or do it well, paying attention to the marketplace will yield far better results than monitoring the competitors.

The future is in our face - daily - if we know what to look for. (Six techniques to do this will be my next book, but that's in the future ;)
My view is probably not, except, of course, for Eric.

I believe corporate planners, industry analysts, and holistic CI practitioners should be able to clearly define the industry and market ... and also create scenarios of potential future environments by pivoting off the most important unknown variables (as per Porter's model)..... but predicting which scenario will come to be, is beyond the scope of CI practitioners. A good holistic CI practitioner should methodically develop and encourage action plans for each significant potential scenario.

I agree with Seena about the part that most people are not aware of today's news. For example, visit an MIT nanotechnology lab and see the future today. Also, trying to predict natural disasters, man-made disasters, technological breakthroughs - most of which happen by accident - is way too complex. Just taking bets on will California go into bankruptcy this year is a flip of the coin..... and will Washington bail out California is another flip of the coin...... and if Washington does bail out California does Moody's and other rating agencies finally say game over?

If someone really could predict the future (other than the astrologists in Brooklyn who can predict most anything) one could cash in via the stock market.

On the other hand, if a futurist is just someone with expertise about existing known trends, rather than predicting unknown events, sure, we're all futurists - even non-CI types and relatives are futurists.

Indeed interesting and tough question that may benefit from a definition of who or what is a futurist and which futures might be considered.

If a futurist is someone interested in future-related work then yes a CI-practitioner is a futurist.

Should a CI practitioner be a futurist only? Probably not, since the CI practitioner role should be connecting the dots between present data and possible futures.

The question then is which futures should CI practitioners consider? My take is that the minimal future CI practitioners may take into account would be the future that the company managers have in mind. A key challenge for CI practitioners is to explain managers why the future they have in mind may benefit from some re-evaluation.

How many CI practitioners consider themselves as futurists? I would guess many although I would also guess very few of them do have the luxury to really act as futurists. As Alan and Seena say there is enough work with keeping up with present data.

Let's hire futurists.


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