Competitive Intelligence

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

If you had to present a case to leadership about what Competitive Intelligence is or is not and ended with a set of universal truths, what would be in your list?  I wanted to do this because I keep finding myself explaning to new leader what to expect from Competitive Intelligence.  When I was in Special Ops we had a list.  They came from the experience of the Desert One Operation, the rescue of hostages from Iran under the Carter Administration.  Here they are:

SOF Truths

  • Humans are more important than Hardware.
  • Quality is better than Quantity.
  • Special Operations Forces cannot be mass produced.
  • Competent Special Operations Forces cannot be created after emergencies occur.
  • Most Special Operations require non-SOF assistance

So I thought, we need a list of CI truths, so we can quickly rattle these off to new leadership after their indoctrination to CI, so they would know what to expect.  I wanted 5 good truths that were hard hitting and easily remembered.  Well, when I started polling my community of practice, I got a lot of different, but very important sets of truth.  Here is the list so far.  What I want to know is what are your CI truths?

Competitive Intelligence Truths

•Over time Intelligence ages to common information
•Good Competitive Intelligence doesn’t involve espionage
•Competitive intelligence is not market research
•CI is useless unless it is used
•There is no replacement for good primary information or a good SME
•Good information is not always free and it takes time to gather it, sift through the relevant parts of it
•The cost of intelligence is scalable proportional to the importance of the decision
•Google is not a great source for Competitive Intelligence

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Comment by Richard on February 9, 2014 at 10:07am

Thanks Babette!  I can't tell you how many people send me an article they found on the web and tell me they found some intelligence.  So much more teaching to do!

Comment by Babette Bensoussan on February 8, 2014 at 6:20pm

A CI truth for me is - Insight (or intelligence) is the result of analysis not just information collection.

Comment by Richard on February 6, 2014 at 8:43am

Thanks.  I doubt if I will ever duplicate the thoughtfulness and emotion that went behind building the SOF Truths. I got my card when I was taking a SOF commanders course at the Kennedy School in Ft Bragg.  Got the whole story behind them.  Your SOF truths card was more important to carry around than any challenge coin.  My secretaries husband a the time when I was a Commander, was on the Desert One Mission and my Street Neighbor, Commander at the 8th SOS was a co-pilot on the mission.  I got a lot of details on how we were let down by our country ignoring truths such as these.  Over the years some have tried to change Seal Training to soften it so the wash out rate was not so high.  I remember our AFSOC Commander telling us all that's the point, you want to wash those people out so they don't fail on a mission.  There is no dishonor in washing out of SOF schools.  Some people are wired for it and some aren't and that's the way it is.

Comment by Trip Krant on February 6, 2014 at 8:22am

To directly answer your question, here's my contribution:

- A problem well stated is a problem half solved.

Comment by Trip Krant on February 6, 2014 at 8:20am

Richard, I'm glad you posted this. I have always admired the SOF Truths, and thought they could be applied to many professions. I think the actual SOF Truths could be adjusted for CI, something along the lines of:

  • Humans are more important than Software.

  • Quality is better than Quantity.

  • CI analysts cannot be mass produced.

  • Competent CI functions cannot be created after emergencies occur.

  • Most CI projects require non-CI assistance.

Again, as something for new leadership to appreciate; but at the same serving an aspirational purpose for the field. As you noted the SOF Truths and SOCOM were born out of the seeds of tragedy and failure – my understanding is that the SOF Truths also served a guiding or aspirational purpose post Goldwater-Nichols as well.

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