Competitive Intelligence

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

We live in an era of transforming economies, simmering terrorism, transitioning institutions, and few historical analogues to guide us. As such, intelligence, in all its manifestations, is a matter of life and death, prosperity and poverty, reason and superstition, light and dark. It is our profession and our passion, and we must support it now, more than ever. We must come together for dialogue, education, and mutual support.

RECENT FAILURES OF INTELLIGENCE

Intelligence has never been more important, yet it finds itself on hard times. In the past few years, the word itself has suffered a number of scandals. At the government level, America’s national intelligence apparatus missed the weak signals leading up to the greatest attack on its soil since Pearl Harbor, if not 1812. Shortly following September 11, the architects of the war in Iraq used an incompetent reading of Iraq’s military capacity to justify a war that has proved immeasureably costly in blood and treasure.

In the private sector, nearly every purveyor of business analysis was caught flatfooted throughout the 2000s, failing to understand or foresee the bursting of an economic bubble from which we suffer today. At the center of this catastrophe were financial analysts who judged, using their own intelligence methdology, that a large group of financial instruments were AAA-grade debt, despite being composed of nothing but fantasy and fraud. Instead of recognizing the failure of their intelligence, the cataclysmic (yet predictable) event is portrayed as an act of God, totally random, and business resumes as usual, plus or minus a few trillion in bailouts.

In all of these catastrophe’s, where was intelligence?

OUR VALUES MUST PREVAIL

Given these unfortunate developments, if the general public is skeptical when someone calls themselves an intelligence professional, it is probably not their fault. We have much to answer for. We have these failures to answer for. Despite these knocks, we cannot abandon intelligence, especially at this moment in history. Our role in society has never been so important. The changes that await us in the 21st century require foresight and decisive action, and only a rigorous methodology can provide it.

The values of intelligence are those that make a free society; a sound company; a competent government. Those values are:

• Reason
• Rigor
• Open dialogue
• Diversity of opinion and expertise

These values are so critically important because they are the opposite of brute force, superstition, cult of personality, dogma, absolutism, violence and tyranny, where an elect few tell us what the world looks like. In a world guided by the values of intelligence, we see the world for what it is, and have the free will to make rational decisions. The values promised by intelligence are democracy itself. They link our profession directly to Voltaire’s Enlightenment. Those men and women of the Enlightenment fought, suffered and died for the triumph of science-based liberal democracy over absolutist theocracy. They grew up in a world where reality was decreed from on high, and if you disagreed, you were imprisoned or tortured until your opinions were judged to be acceptable. The Lumières were surrounded by the teachings of Newton, Lavoisier, Coulomb and hundreds of others, and envisioned a world of reason, scientific method, and progress away from the violent domination of tyrants. Their adoption of reason as a guiding value led directly to the American and French Revolutions, and has subsequently led representative government to triumph over domination almost everywhere on Earth.

Thus, we cannot give up on intelligence due to the recent failures of a few; it would be like giving up on freedom itself.

A PROPOSAL FOR AN “INTELLIGENCE COLLABORATIVE”

The skills and values we promise to the world’s organizations could not be of greater importance, and that is why we must continue to grow and thrive in spite of recent failures and misunderstanding of intelligence. We need a fraternity to unite us beyond the simple expediency of our jobs of the moment, our clients of the day. We need each other, now more than ever. We need to share our experiences and points of view, for mutual learning and support, for the public support of our discipline. Intelligence professionals from around the world, calling themselves a variety of titles and holding a wealth of different skills must come together to advance our shared discipline.

The intelligence profession requires a COLLABORATIVE with standards, priviliges and obligations akin to masons, carpenters, and especially physicians. There is currently no group that occupies this need for people with various skill sets and the common desire to help leaders of all kinds make more enlightened decisions. We must meet together for mutual learning and support, to advance the cause of our profession, but this cannot possibly happen under the roof of any group whose goal is anything other than the improvement of the profession itself, for the benefit of all.

A next-generation collaborative for intelligence professionals should do the following:

Bring together a wide range of professionals who are sensing, analyzing, understanding, and discussing the world around us. It is time for the walls to fall between business intelligence, competitive intelligence, marketing, strategy, librarians, etc. We should bring together a great wealth of diverse views on the same goals. We can focus on professionalism and not dogma. We can learn from each other and support each other.

Educate aspiring professionals in the state of the art of the discipline. A collaborative can select the best original research and training for professionals in the intelligence field, without a profit motive as a corrupting influence.

Improve the public understanding of intelligence. A collaborative should present a coherent view of what intelligence is, how it is practiced by the preeminent professionals in a variety of fields, and why every organization should understand and use the skills of professional intelligence. This way, some leaders cannot abuse intelligence, confusing it in the mind of the public for the dogmatic absolutism it really is.

There are variety of techniques that will make this possible. Modern information technology can unite us with minimal cost. Bureaucratic overhead and expense can be kept to a minimum. Dialogue and openness can take the place of central control and secrecy. We can all work together to support the field, include the world in our dialogue, and evolve our shared work as information professionals.

We can then focus our energy on improving the world as a whole.

Sincerely submitted,

Eric Garland

Views: 147

Replies to This Discussion

I'm in!

Here is what I want from a CI association:
Online presence and collaboration
Links and access to information sources, libraries, listings
Web-based training for my staff
Good business tools and strategic models
Web-based conferences

For these things I will happily pay an association fee to cover the costs. I'll contribute content as well.

The days of expensive conferences in far away cities are over for me and my staff. We want to click instead of fly!
Eric,

Great vision statement, and thank you for putting the time and attention that clearly went in to this.

I have a few thoughts and suggestions as I read this. One is that the collaborative should aim to teach with everything it does. There are a number of new tools available to CI professionals not just for research but also for collaboration and dissemination. To Melody's points about what she wants to see on-line, I would like to see the collective educate its members on how to use those tech tools.

Next and somewhat related, I would like to see all of us go outside of our own comfort zones and really stretch our skills on every dimension to maximize the educational potential. So even if you're "not a computer person" we'll take it on as part of the enrichment of the group to bring you up to speed at least on the basics. Ditto for primary research people who don't know secondary, vice versa and analytical people who think they don't know research.

Flowing from that, the organization should "eat its own dog food." For collaborative use cases, examples and experiments lets try to address dual purposes for strategic insight that can support the collective's objectives. So for example the collective could do an "industry analysis" of professional associations such as SCIP, SLA, AMA, ASP and others to identify unmet needs of "customers."

Finally, I want to propose a ground rule that nobody gets to declare themselves the guru or the unquestionable expert on any topic. We maintain a respectful environment, and when we disagree with one another we do so based on evidence and fact, clearly presented.

Let the awesomeness begin. I'm happy to contribute my intellectual property (such as it is) which is all under a Creative Commons license, anyway. I would humbly put forward Creative Commons as an IP licensing vehicle if the collective were so inclined.
Clearly my Borg nature is showing in my use of the word "collective" as opposed to "collaborative." Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. Tuesday is "Silly Hat Day."
"Finally, I want to propose a ground rule that nobody gets to declare themselves the guru or the unquestionable expert on any topic."

Man, if anything, we all need to be LISTENING and LEARNING right now, and always. So while some people may have useful insight, nobody gets to dominate through a dogma. Thus, we get better dialogue.

"We maintain a respectful environment, and when we disagree with one another we do so based on evidence and fact, clearly presented."

Always.
If I understand the concept properly (and I may very well not), the idea was to create a true "Professional Association" -- a la AIAA, IEEE, AMA, Bar Association, American Chemical Society, American Physical Society, APPAM, American Economic Association, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, etc... -- encompassing the entirety of the disparate paths, specialties and disciplines that are currently involved in the entire arena of Strategic Intelligence. The goal, as I understand it, would thus be both to perform the roles and provide the benefits to those in these fields of a true "Professional Association" (of the type listed above) as well as to create a collaborative community amongst and across all those paths, specialties, and disciplines so as to better enable practitioners to enhance decision-making, planning, and action-taking.

From my perspective, some of the roles and benefits typically provided by true "Professional Associations" include (neither exhaustive nor suggestive of all the things I think such an organization should be doing, particularly in the near-to-mid-term):

* Establish a professional identity
* Pool funds to accomplish joint goals
* Foster and publish Research/Theory
* Diffuse and communicate Best Practices/Process
* Enhance Basic Education/Entry
* Promote Advanced Training/Technical Knowledge
* Improve Promotion/Perception of the profession
* Develop and promote Benchmarking/Standards
* Create Certifications for Professional Prestige
* Enable Networking/Cross-Fertilization between Disciplines/Specialties

I apologize if I misunderstand the objectives (and look forward to elucidation and correction), and look forward to everyone's thoughts and comments.

Max
I was brought up during World War II when 'collaborator' was a dirty word. I think the time has come to treat it with more respect - please add me to your list of collaborators.

Vernon
Speaking of "collaboration", just got a push email about a new IT white paper about foster a "culture of collaboration" (I believe their emphasis is on innovation) at http://www.itbusinessedge.com/offer.aspx?o=00630256em0916

Thought I'd share (what with the collaborative environment and all).

Max.
I draw the line at "suffering and dying," but otherwise, good thinking.
I want to be a part of this - for us.
-Prakash
Eric,

Great initiative and who can say no to an initiative with a main cause that reads “improving the world as a whole”? I have to admit that my first thought was sarcastic and that you put too high believes in what intelligence can do, but once I did read through the comments I started thinking on the matter and you can count me in. I have not been very active in this forum, but I guess you pulled the right string and I´ll promise to become more visible. Now, a few but very important questions remain. The reason I raise them now is due to my experience with similar initiatives, and most often I see people who are enthusiastic and eager to help out the first few weeks, then they realize they have to put in hours of hard work (you don’t make impact and change without hard work, believe me..) and they’re gone.

Set the rules of the game
What disciplines of intelligence are we asking for; some people mention CI, some BI and some others talk about strategic intelligence? I´d say primo focus for a collaboration initiative like this would be to set some light governance (fishing for content providers and collaborators and defining a cause is a great first move), defining what disciplines we are talking about (and define them too) and how they may interact. I have plenty of examples where CI use metrics and methods that BI (often controllers) don’t understand jack s… of or don’t dare to handle since it is estimates and where strategy intelligence use to wide figures because they are afraid of being accountable (any McKinsey or BCG people around, that to you guys).

Or do we dare to go further? Do we like to believe in Medici effects where learning from other intelligence disciplines would learn and improve the skills of… hm what should I call us.. corporate intelligence? What if we mash up the seismological intelligence discipline vs traditional CI? This is really hard to pull off and might suit better once this is going.

Where are we going?
Why do we do this, and when do we reach a first toll gate. Setting some clear objective would be great and I did see some good suggestion in the comments.

When, who and how
How do we pull this off, monthly live sessions, groups being responsible for certain content etc. the list could be made long.
Let me know if help is needed in structuring and leading this is needed. Otherwise I´ll just be happy to contribute with my experience and thoughts on the matter.

PS. Intelligence (pore or not) has been the cause to quite some of the economic malfunctions and disasters you did mention. It is the human beings inability to not think in linear progress that makes us weak. DS

Best regards,
Marcus
Thank you for the initiative Eric.
May quantumiii and I please be counted in.
If the world - including our own - ever needed improvement... To that end we should collaborate now.
Regards! - Albert
Ex Africa semper aliquid novi...
The idea is right. I would like to look at this matter from the expert tools aspect- meaning the use of expert tools in the daily challenges to enable CI professionals to implement collaboration inside their firms with colleagues and other executives in the task of improving the bottom line of the intelligence products. It is important to bring up feasible ideas that CI professional can benefit. Avner

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