I've read a few writings recently warning managers, especially at emerging companies, away from focusing excessively on their competitors. The gist of the idea is that competitive analysis can lead to me-too moves, as companies try to match each others' product lines, pricing, and marketing strategies rather than innovating or staking out a segment of the market where they can build barriers to entry.
My take on the issue is that checklist-based competitive analysis is usually counter-productive, but that higher-level, more creative approaches can be very helpful. Combining customer research with competitive intelligence can be particularly powerful because the customer perspectives keep the exercise grounded in whether customers care about specific initiatives. If you're interested, I wrote more about the challenges of competitive analysis
on my company blog.
I'm curious to get your perspectives on this too. How do you help your organizations or clients get value from CI while preventing them from getting mired in it? Wargaming and competitive simulations in particular seem like great ways to work on outsmarting rather than mirroring competitors. Personally, I don't have much experience with those approaches. I'd love to hear any war stories you might have on how those techniques or others have been helpful.