Competitive Intelligence

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

The Application of CI for International Economic Development

Many of you may have missed the news this week that our good friend and colleague Prof. Paul Dishman has been named a Fulbright Scholar by the State Department to lecture and do research at a university in Montenegro on using competitive intelligence in international economic development at our world's newest nation.

I'm wondering if this means there is some recognition then of CI's benefits in this sense? Paul, are you out there? Would you care to comment? Anybody else?

It strikes me that, if the U.S. State Department is recognizing CI as a legitimate and significant enough managerial competence to have funded a Fulbright Scholarship then that's pretty big news, eh? Or, has this happened before?

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Competitive intelligence has at least a bit of recognition in the both the US State and Commerce Departments and their equivalents in other countries, and in the international development community. In 1990 the United Nations Industrial Development Organization invited Leonard Fuld to speak at a conference in Vienna on the uses of competitive intelligence in industrial economies. And US embassies have a commercial attache on staff who will provide US companies with baseline commercial intelligence on markets in the country to which they're posted, and they can provide information on major companies in the country. Similar positions exist in the embassies of most industrialized countries and the purposeos to provide information on local markets to companies at home that want to export. But the same information could easily be used to get baseline competitive information, something the commercial attaches certainly recognize and encourage. The economic development agency for the area around Beijing invited me to speak on competitive intelligence last year, and the purpose of the conference was to help state-supported Chinese companies recognize that they needed to understand foreign competitors in order to compete in an open market.
This is certainly something I have been involved in personally for nearly a decade here in Canada. A number of agencies at the three levels of government have viewed competitive intelligence as part of their mandates in supporting international business development in their respective jurisdictions.

So to be fair, I don't see this as anything new. I think it would be safe to say it has been under the radar for many years.

I agree with Michael Sandman and Chris Mack, nothing new.
As a documented case Prof. Henry Dou, Marseille Univ, is involved under this topic in the last years with Indonesian authorities and some CI projects -palm oil industry- there. Personally our company Triz XXI,, works since the beginning of this decade with CI projects in countries like Chile, Colombia, Mexico or Brasil.

When I was with International Technical Advisory Corps, I remember Tom Reitz being on the OSAC loop to provide feedback to "Mitigate Risks".

I guess in the race for Economic Supremacy by Nations, Competitive Intelligence is a lethal tool.
In his address to Congress on Feb, 24, 2009, President Obama said in a global economy, "The most

valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge."

Knowledge: The New Commodity
by Mary Clarke

Knowledge is power in the modern marketplace. Organizations making large-scale cuts to workforce development may want to think again.

In his address to Congress on Feb, 24, 2009, President Obama said in a global economy, "The most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge." Similarly, the most valuable asset for businesses is the knowledge of their employees. In today's knowledge-based economy, competent and confident employees are a key foundation for a successful business, and a continued focus on the development of employee knowledge is an important step for businesses to take of they hope to stay competitive in the ever-changing global business environment.

However, despite recent trends pushing toward an economy increasingly dominated by knowledge-based activities, many businesses are not making an investment in their employees. "Knowledge: The New Commodity," a study released in April by economist Paul Mizen - professor at the University of Nottingham and fellow at the Centre for Growth and Business Cycle Research at The University of Manchester - found that in the midst of the economic downturn, many of the world's top economies have reduced their focus and monetary investments in knowledge development, coaching, mentoring and other human capital activities.

In fact, in 2008, more firms in those industrialized countries reported a decline in staff development. In the developing markets of Asia, however, fewer firms are planning to decrease their training budgets and staff investments, and are instead coping with the recession by reducing budgets elsewhere.

By maintaining a focus on knowledge development during the recession, emerging market countries are putting themselves in a position to close the gap in market competitiveness and become more of a business threat to industrialized countries come the economic upturn.

If businesses in industrialized countries hope to emerge from the economic downturn in the same competitive positions they were in before the recession started, they should consider re-evaluating their staff investments and where they have reduced their budgets.

According to Mizen, three global business trends are making it more important for companies to invest in employee knowledge: the increasing globalization of the world economy, the expansion of the knowledge-based economy and a greater reliance on knowledge-based services.

Globalization of the World Economy

During the past 10-20 years, the economy has become increasingly globalized. This is due in large part to improved communication technology, as well as the fact that more firms are taking part in joint ventures, foreign direct investments (FDI) and offshoring, especially in emerging markets such as those of China and India. Mizen reported that globalization is impacting emerging market economies, helping them catch up with industrialized countries and allowing them to adopt competitive technology at a lower cost base.

Globalization can better enable firms in emerging markets to exploit comparative advantages, such as lower land and labor costs and technical know-how while also taking advantage of newly acquired access to supplier and customer networks. The high level of FDI in these countries has brought with it new technology and skills, which in turn empowers workers to advance and adapt more quickly in the rapidly changing global economy.

In generations past, when business was more internalized from country to country, developing regions did not have the same technological opportunities they have now and were less likely to position themselves as global competitors. Given the increased competition coming from developing regions, talent leaders in industrialized nations should be even more aware of the pressing need to emphasize knowledge development.

Expansion of the Knowledge-Based Economy

An increased emphasis on the expanding knowledge-based economy is raising standards across industries and underlining the importance of "quality advantage," or the ability to meet minimum industry standards established for product excellence, delivery and customer service. This is wonderful news for the consumer, but it means challenges for the talent leader, as standards are defined differently sector to sector. Businesses that are unable to meet these standards will be quickly eliminated from the market as competitors capitalize on their failure to keep up with industry demands.

A company's investment in knowledge development directly affects both its productivity and its quality advantage. Productivity reduces costs and maintains competitiveness, while quality advantage ensures the organization has a product with a higher specification or value than those of its rivals.

Companies that wish to compete in a global market must address both, since one without the other is insufficient. Thus, to maintain a strong position in an increasingly knowledge-based, competitive economy, businesses must maintain a firm focus on their employees and associated training and workforce development programs.

Greater Reliance on Knowledge-Based Services

An increased reliance on knowledge-based services means it has become more and more common for industries not traditionally rooted in knowledge-based activities to offer supplemental services that are. In an effort to retain competitive advantage and gain market leadership status, many companies now conduct product research and development, as well as offer support and financing services that weren't available in the past.

For example, the distinction between the manufacturing and services sectors is now less defined, as more and more manufacturing firms offer post-sale support and services. Such knowledge-based activities are changing the way companies need to address employee training and management and are putting a heavier emphasis on the importance of investing in workforce development programs.

Employee development programs, which often are based around individually customized assessments and performance management systems, evaluate and improve workforce education and skill levels and assist in matching employees to specific, often strategic or tactical business tasks.

It is now more critical than ever that talent managers ensure employees understand their job roles, as well as the changing nature of their employers' businesses and industries as a whole if they wish to remain competitive in today's economic environment.

Assessments provide a holistic view of employees by evaluating the knowledge, competence and confidence of each individual. Confidence evaluation is critical because if someone lacks complete confidence in their knowledge, they will always question their actions and will be less likely to perform to their highest potential. Conversely, if someone has extreme confidence based on incorrect knowledge, they are more likely to incur risk to the company because they will not question their actions.

Investing in assessment-based knowledge development programs can be particularly important during the economic downturn. Many sectors have been forced to cut budgets and workforce numbers. Companies will have to maintain business and production levels with reduced staff, which means that an accurate picture of the knowledge landscape within the company is a necessity if managers want to utilize their employees to the fullest extent possible. Development programs help to identify employees who have amassed significant knowledge and industry experience so employers can use their skills effectively.

Knowledge development programs are not only useful for general staff, they also can be employed on the management level. Evidence from a 2008 survey of 700 members of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a professional body in the U.K., showed that nine in 10 respondents believed management or leadership development was critical to increase their businesses during the next two years.

Economic Stimulus

Today's economic decline has taken its toll on companies across all sectors and geographic regions. The majority of businesses have been forced to cut back, but the manner in which they've approached these cuts could have a direct effect on their future performance and market placement as we emerge from the economic downturn.

Businesses cannot afford to neglect their staffs. Employees ultimately determine the future success of a company. A focus on employee knowledge and competence is critical in any economic condition, but in today's increasingly competitive global environment, knowledge must be treated as a precious commodity.

As the old adage goes, knowledge is power.

[About the Author: Mary Clarke is the CEO for Cognisco, global knowledge appraisal and learning solutions provider.]

........In a global economy where the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge, a good education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity – it is a pre-requisite.

Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma. And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education. We have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation. And half of the students who begin college never finish.

This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow. That is why it will be the goal of this administration to ensure that every child has access to a complete and competitive education – from the day they are born to the day they begin a career..............
Arik: As Michael noted below, Leonard and I were part of a team in the 1990s with the U.N. The main issue is how to sustain the effort.
John Prescott
There is a joint Agency of the United Nations and of the World Trade Organization that was created in 1964 with the original aim of providing "trade information" for developing countries: the International Trade Centre (ITC) (, located in Geneva, Switzerland, of which I had the honour to be a staff member. During all my twelve years in ITC we trained thousands of officers and developed technologies to help developing countries to establish trade information or intelligence centres to support their export development efforts. From its inception ITC considered competitive inteligence as trade intelligence since by definition it was born with a global vision and mandate to help developing countries to access developed markets and lately other developing countries' markets. I believe we pioneered computerized trade information systems in the mid 1980s and developed many tools to enhance the analysis of threats and opportunities in world markets. Hence, this is my main point, CI for international development has been developing for at least 45 years and proliferated in hundreds of national and regional trade promotion organizations.


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