Competitive Intelligence

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What did you think of Michael Porter's article on "Why America Needs an Economic Strategy?"

New thoughts about competition and strategy may be bubbling up into the managerial mindset. I just read Michael Porter's new article "Why America Needs an Economic Strategy" in the latest Business Week and thought that it could mean a positive development for the competitive intelligence/strategy/scenario thinking/futures crowd here.

Porter says that America has a lot of valuable assets, and no plan whatsoever for long-term prosperity. The United States has a great science and technology engine, the best technology transfer in the world, and a still-vibrant culture of entrepreneurialism. However, the U.S. will be hobbled by its lacking social net, a mess of a public health system, decaying infrastructure, and creeping neo-mercantilism in the form of giant corporations that distort markets. He says that the only way out is to think long-term, from small businesses up to national policy makers.

Question: Do you think that this presents an opportunity for you as a global intelligence professional? If so what might you do about it?

It seems to me that if people around the world are going to start thinking broadly, it can only mean good things for our community. Perhaps our moment has arrived, if only we can seize it. It seems better than small, short-term, parochial, next-quarter thinking at the very least!

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Thanks for sharing this Eric, I yet need to get my hands on a copy of this article. Shooting from the hips: there are profound reasons why the world's largest economy in concert with all others has failed to craft, establish and follow a national/globalized economic strategy: it's all the reasons we are very familiar with!

- Lack of understanding, vision
- Absence of clear value proposition
- Fragmentation
- Competing policies and agendas
- Missing leadership

A strategic agenda for a national economy as part of the globalized world adds yet more complexity. No single nation can turn the tables alone anymore as we know.

A noble cause? Absolutely. An invaluable development? You bet!

But "who and how" we hear ourselves asking the same questions when starting our CI and strategic functions in our organizations. Even SCIP struggles with a unified and strong strategy and it’s own intelligence capabilities to begin with…

In this regard Eric, I think you are right on the money casting a great opportunity upon the global CI community. But with any great idea that starts small and wants to become larger than life – you need clout and someone, something to develop and push this clout across all boundaries and obstacles.

A huge fish to fry indeed but one absolutely worth debating at highest levels.

So, how could our contribution look like? Well, how about starting small like with a discussion just like this one here and see how far we can drive it and ignite some enthusiasm among us as a start.

I’ll be back after reading the article. Great approach Eric, much appreciated!
It seems to me that this is tied into the financial failure as well. Most executives don't want to consider any information outside their current business model and assumptions. Bigger, broader thinking, scenarios, creativity, all of that vital mental activity has been pushed aside in favor of advancing the dominant paradigm 95 hours a week.

Competitive intelligence provides uncomfortable and important data about the outside world and forces executives to consider its importance. When you make it a regular practice, you knit all those insights together into a broader strategy.

We need this for our companies, our countries, and the world as a whole. Collectively, we're not doing this, but we must.

Now, what do we do about it....? That's the real question.
Scenario analysis is one of the best tools I know of to creatively challenge executive assumptions and business models. Understanding the executive assumptions and business models is the foundation for relaying intelligence; providing the backdrop, so to speak, that make analyses relevant.
Thanks Eric for your comments.

In answer to your questions, I think yes, this is an opportunity, mostly because it will raise more interest in corporate strategy and its interplay with U.S. government policy. What I am doing about it is: writing here, plus writing on HBR Editor blog.

As a huge Michael Porter fan and someone that has been using his methodologies and ideas for 22 years, it is very hard for me to say this, but, the title of his article "Why America Needs an Economic Strategy" will lead many people to incorrectly think he's talking about some kind of five year plan, like what the USSR used to have. Porter should have titled his article: "Why America Needs Economic Policies That Work."

(Porter wants greater transparency in government, lower tax rates, fewer regulations when they are not needed, less costly litigation, and better strategies where government does play a role, like in: public education, public healthcare for the poor, etc. In addition, he strongly believes in having a long-term business-friendly climate with a holistic policy approach instead of silo-based economic policies which off-set each other.)

Thanks again, Eric. Any discussion about Porter's ideas is a great discussion.
I agree with you that there's an unfortunate tendency to compare any economic policy to the five-year Stalinist planning methodology; such is the tragedy of our political rhetoric. The dreadfully faulty assumption has been that large corporations would act in their best interest, and a national economic policy would miraculously appear.

That wasn't wise - clearly, now - but also not fair to businesses, who are best suited to pursuing profit, and not good at balancing national policy with shareholder value. There's a role for business, a role for government, a role for individuals, and a need for dialogue between them. In every nation, we need to dialogue as somewhat discrete entities as to what the economic future could or should be. I say discrete entities, since the lobbying structure has made corporations and the federal government so close they can't really separate their fates from one another.

Government needs to make policy, businesses need to make good products, and individuals need to hold both institutions to keep their promises. And I don't think that is a particularly Stalinesque proposal.

Then again, maybe I'm reading Porter the wrong way. Did he do his first drafts in Russian?

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