Competitive Intelligence

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

The taxi driver syndrome for intelligence profesionals

The CI “taxi driver syndrome”.

How often does the market and competitive intelligence team get requests without any further background information why the stakeholder needs that particular information?


For instance you get the question: How many PC’s are there in Austria?

If you than reply by asking: “why do you want to know this?” the response might very well be: “Just give me the data. I need it. Rather today than tomorrow”. (He thinks: it is not your business)

You feel down to a low level data provider, not being able to add any extra value.

Is that OK or not?


This is what I call  “the taxi driver syndrome”.


You stop a taxi, get into the car and say “Can you please take me to Parklane, sir”.

What if the taxi driver turns around to you and asks: “Why do you want to go there?”

You are very likely to answer: “Thank you for your question, but that is not relevant for you. (or: that is not your business) Please take me there. Thank you.


The difference is that the driver does a one-off job for you and you don’t need any extra help. You know why you are going there.


However it would be different in the following situation.

You are on a business trip in a major city and there is nothing planned for this evening. So, you are looking for some entertainment. You may ask the driver to take you to Mainstreet.

Again, he will ask you: Why do you wanna go there?

This time you are open for his consultancy service.

“Thank you for asking, I am looking for some entertainment”.

The taxi driver can play an advisory role. “Are you looking for a show, you would like a concert, do you want to go to a restaurant, a nightclub, a sports event?”

And even one level deeper. Say, you want to go to a restaurant.

The taxi driver may suggest a nice Italian restaurant, a special Greek restaurant, an outstanding Sushi bar, a spicy Indian, a gastronomic French restaurant or just a delicious hamburger.

If the driver knows his city he can do an excellent job on top of driving quickly and safely.

And that will lead to more business for him, most probably with the same customer.

Can you pick me up after dinner and take me to a nice launch bar? He will do and because of his expertise he will surprise you.


That is what we want as Intelligence Professionals and that is what we have to do.

The good news is that it is all possible. Market Intelligence professionals should play a consultancy role and being seen as the trusted advisor to the internal stakeholders of a company.


It is much easier for Intelligence Professionals to build up that relationship with the stakeholders. It is not an one-off deal like a taxi-ride.


It comes down to asking the right questions and making the right suggestions.

Back to the question: How many PC’s are there in Austria?

Just answering may give the wrong information to the stakeholder. Which leads to disappointments and turning you into a person that is seen as nonprofessional. 


It would be easier if the stakeholder would explain the reason for the question. But this will only happen if there is a trusted relationship between the stakeholder and the Intelligence professional.

If that is not the case, it needs to be developed and that is primarily the task of Intelligence professional. As a real consultant to your stakeholder, you must find the need behind the need.


How many PC’s are there in Austria?

Why do you want to know this?

Just give me the data. I need it.


How to cope with this? There are several ways. Here are some…


First of all: Don’t start arguing. You can show already that you are a professional. You most probably have a good idea what the business reason is and you can anticipate on this. On the other hand you also know that there are many different types of PC’s.

So, just giving an answer to his question is not the right response. (There are 20 million PC in Austria.)

Why not doing the following?

”sure I can help you on this. If it is only the grand total number of PC’s we have it available in our database. Depending on what you want to do with the data, we can split the number up in several different groups.

- is it both the stand alone PC’s and the networked PC’s?

- Do you want the PC’s for professional business usages only or also the home PC’s.

- Do you want the number including all game PC’s?

- Should tablets be included?

- Should it be sorted by region or by industry, maybe by size-band?

- is it important for you to have the number of PC’s in rural area’s or only in the bigger cities?

- Would it be important for you combine the number of PC’s with any other data in order to do further correlation analysis and look at where we can optimize the business?


And we can even do more in terms of data collection and analysis to help you being even more successful than you are today.”


Also these questions (and there many, many more you can ask) will show that you understand intelligence and that you are here to support and add value.


The chance that your stakeholder will repeat that the reason for his question is not your business, is exceptionally low.


There are two main reactions to this: Great give me all you suggest. What do you reply? The following: if you want it all, it will take me about 4 to 6 weeks. Most often the stakeholder can not wait, and guess what,,… the conversation about what and why is relevant starts.


Or, better, the questions you have asked the stakeholder will trigger him.

So, most probably he will give you more background information. But even if he says: thank you for these questions, please leave out all household and game PC’s, I am basically only interested in the networked business PC’s, you have made big progress. The information that you will provide is much more to the point and as a consequence the stakeholder will use it for his business. He will see that it is relevant and will come back to you next time. With more specific questions and most probably he will give you (a little bit) background information.


Try this and see how this works. If you are still not able to open the conversation to understand the need behind the need, than contact me. There are more ways to overcome this problem. I am also interested in learning what you do with this problem!


Good luck with your intelligence



Joost Drieman is owner of Marix International NV, a consultancy company specialized in Intelligence and Strategy. Joost had been director Market and Business Intelligence at Cisco. Before Cisco Joost had senior management positions at several high tech companies in Europe and the USA. He also did consultancy work for the EC, DG Infso.  In total over 25 years international experience in strategy, business development, intelligence and management.

He is visiting lecturer at some the business schools in Europe and the USA to teach market intelligence. Joost regularly speaks at conferences (SCIP, GIA, ICI, etc). He is a dynamic, charismatic presenter, interacts with the audience and has the ability to explain difficult topics in an easy understandable way, with a touch of humor. Together with the GIA, Joost developed several training workshops for Intelligence professionals, including Internal Consultative Skills, Internal Marketing, Megatrends, Presentation Skills, and more.


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