Competitive Intelligence

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Dear Group members,


I recently read some interesting insights on Crowdsourcing, a practice that Wikipedia defines as "the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor to a large group of people or community (a crowd) through an open call". The key in crowdsourcing is to break down a specific task into small chunks of work that can be performed by a relevant established professional (or knowledgeable amateur) in his spare time for the benefit or a larger organization.


This type of practice has already been used in Marketing activities such as when a company wants to design a new t-shirt it makes an open call for submissions from web users. Crowdsourcing has also been used in writing code in software production. A more hypothetical example would be that a CI - professional would crowdsource parts of a background investigation into a competitor so that someone would do financial due diligence. another value chain analysis, another competitive positioning analysis etc... There are no immediate arguments that come to my mind why this sort of practice could not be used in industrial manufacturing, too, at some point in the process.


Crowdsourcing is not a subject without controversy, not least because of the implications it has for the world of work. But I started to think more deeply about the fact that the crowdsourcing assignments are sought through an "open call". More specific questions that came to my mind are: How open is the call for submissions? How much signals about its intentions does the company give away by submitting the open call, although the assignment is broken down into smaller tasks that do not necessarily give away the whole plan? How can companies utilize crowdsourcing without giving away too much information about its intentions? How can competitive intelligence professionals get intel on the intentions of competitors by mining open calls for crowdsourcing assignments? How can that be done ethically?


Maybe some of you have already come across crowdsourcing as a phenomenon, and maybe also the CI-implications of crowdsourcing. It would be interesting to discuss this topic here on the IntelCollab.


Best regards,



PS. The Wikipedia-entry on "Crowdsourcing" to which I referred above can be found under:

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Replies to This Discussion

Well clearly we want Ari on the convo so the 25th is fine with me.
That's what I was thinking since Ari started it - Ari got back to me since I last posted and said he liked the idea of two sessions - 11th and 25th - so we could go either way - a single session on the 25th or a "double header" 11th & 25th knowing Ari would only join the second.

I guess I'm leaning toward a single session though on the 25th rather than start off with a double-header and missing the author of the original post. If that works, let's just just go for 10:30 eastern time on Friday 25 June then.

Annette, I'll invite you as well if you're able to join that day>? Anyone else interested as a panelist on this topic? Seena?
Ok will you send out a call in number?
I'll setup all the bridge details and email them out to you using the email on file here on the Ning site.
Hi Monica,

Yes, I've been following and getting involved in text analytics for a while now and have spoken at some conferences on it in the pharma area. We've been doing various analyses for pharma clients, both as CI and also as more general market intelligence, which we utilise as a combination of both market research and competitive intelligence.

The problem with the commercial vendors you mention is that there isn't really much useful conversation taking place around Pharma brands, especially in niche areas, in social media so they aren't that useful so far. Tools like Radian6 and Cymfony are more geared to big mass brands like Pepsi vs. Coke or suchlike.

The reason is that no one who is ill wants to have a relationship with a pharma company, after all, let alone talk about depression or other problems in a public space. These conversations take place in the deeper web, so you need different tools and processes to process and analyse that kind of information to generate useful insights.

Web 3.0 is all about the Semantic web and text analytics fits right in this space as an area for future usefulness and I'm hoping it will develop from its infancy into something more powerful and insightful.
Hi all,

I've (finally) gotten the June 25th Intel Collab teleconference scheduled into our GotoMeeting account and we're ready to take registrations. We're on for Friday 25 June at 10:30 eastern. Panelists include Ari, Monica, Ellen Seena and Annette. Hope you can all still make that time and apologies it took me a few days to get it officially scheduled. Here's the registration URL for non-panelists to join the discussion:

I'll be adding this as an official event to share with All Members today as well.

- Arik
Hello all,

In anticipation for today's Teleconference on the "CI - implications of Crowdsourcing", and having discussed it with Arik, I would like to submit the following briefing to initiate the discussion.


What is Crowdsourcing?

The act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor to a large group of people or community (a crowd) through an open call [Wikipedia]. Breaking down a task into small chunks of work that can be performed by a relevant established professional (or, knowledgable amateur) in his or her spare time for the benefit of a larger organization.

Discussion to be structured around a few specific existing applications of crowdsourcing and the various features of crowdsourcing that they exhibit.

Examples of applications of Crowdsourcing that were presented during the online conversation on NING:

1. Consultant websites (e.g., Intota (
2. Listening platform / brand monitoring (e.g. Radian 6, TNS Cymphony, Nielsen Buzzmetrics, Biz 360, Visible Technologies)
3. Prediction markets: Information aggregation (Getting sophisticated observations from relatively less expert sources to specific questions)

Discussing how the following concerns relate to some of the above and other applications of Crowdsourcing:

1. How "open" is the call for submissions?
2. How much signals about its intentions does a company give away by submitting an open call for a crowdsourcing assignment?
3. How can companies utilize crowdsourcing without giving away too much information about its intentions?
4. To what extent can crowdsourcing be utilized when the assignments touch on sensitive and confidential
5. How can CI professionals ethically gather intel on the intentions of competitors by mining open calls for crowdsourcing assignments?
6. What are the legal limits of crowdsourcing?
7. How high is the quality of input received through crowdsourcing?
8. Is the knowledge creation process in crowdsourcing already the creative element or is it the resulting knowledge itself?

Thoughts about structure:

Each participant who presented in the online discussion ideas of an existing application of crowdsourcing would shortly present it, and apply some of the concerns presented above and/or other relevant concerns.

Participants who did not participate in the online discussion can also present an application, if they are well enough familiar with its contents and can talk about it in the context of the concerns presented above or other relevant concerns.


Arik suggested that we may want to arrange a series of teleconferences on this topic, should the group find that necessary.

I look forward to the discussion.

All the best to you all,

Brilliant Ari - I'm really looking forward to today's discussion - final promo going out in 15 minutes.

Talk to you soon,

- Arik
Many thanks to everyone, panelists in particular, who joined us on the Intel Collab telecon this morning (25 June). Which upcoming Friday in July would you like to take the conversation up again? We're booked for July 2 to discuss an update to the CI Wiki project, but then nothing in particular in scheduled from there.

I copied possible agenda items from the Wave for this call and might've gotten some of this wrong, so please correct me.

Topics for next time:

- Case studies of Crowdsourcing for its Application in Innovation (Valerie)
- Development of Company Policy & Terms and Conditions (Ari)
- Players in the Market Space (Monica)
- Effectiveness Measures (Seena)

What'd I miss?

Finally, I'll be uploading the recording for review later today to:

It's sure to be a big file but feel free to remix and share as you like.

Happy weekend and looking forward to our next discussion!


- Arik
Hello all,

... and thank you to all for participating into our discussion earlier today.

I would like to elaborate somewhat my comment as referenced above in Arik's summary. Two interesting concerns were raised during the discussion: (i.) concern about low input quality from crowdsourcing, and (ii.) concern about reluctance among professionals to talk about topics in a way that may breach their employment contracts etc. So, my summary comment was that input quality could be increased only if Company Policy enables the facilitation of crowdsourcing. But, naturally, the incentive for the revision of such policies would have to be some perceived benefit from crowdsourcing to the company.

Also, there was a comment about whether crowdsourcing poses a threat to established CI professionals, and we seemed to conclude that - no - there is not a threat. A thought that came to my mind later was that maybe the knowledge of established CI - professionals who are not active in a consultant capacity, but rather as corporate in-house practictioners, could be used through crowdsourcing by a wider community than the professional's own company (maybe to fill in current knowledge gaps in the consultancy community). The input would then be more than generic, but would require some clever packaging to keep it anonymous enough. But, this would require above facilitation by Company Policy. The point is that CI professionals operating on crowdsourcing platforms would not necessarily be of low quality.

Something that we did not talk about is the fact that information about projects will be gathered and stored by the companies that operate the websites mentioned during the call. How safe is that, and what happens if the web application or the company behind it gets sold (to some other company not yet known about)?

I would like to write an analysis on how the current terms and conditions of the crowdsourcing application that I talked about impacts input quality. If the Group is interested, I would like to present some of the findings in the next discussion.

And finally, I apologize for the low quality of my voip connection today that made communication less than optimal.

I look forward to continue the discussion in July.

Best regards,
Great Ari - thanks very much - I think a T&C policy analysis would be a big contribution to the topic!

No disrespect intended, but your comment here leads me to believe you have never been close to a Strategic CI function. There is no way that in house CI practitioners at least of the strategic sort, are ever going to be used via crowdsourcing for a wider community/consultants etc giving up their proprietary knowledge and intel derived while in the employ of a firm with an ounce of sophistication about CI. They would be sued sideways and inside out.....I mean oh yeah I can see IBM saying oh yeah sure go share our intel in the public domain with Cisco or Dell!

And changing Terms and Conditions to allow this to happen? No way, if anything I have seen companies get far more aggressive about threatening companies who hire their departed and respected CI folks. I speak from my own personal experience here- I left one of the biggest tech firms in the world having been a Sr Strategic Analyst in the most lucrative division and they called up my new employer to threaten them with legal action if they even thought about asking me certain things and wanted to send over my NDAs just to make certain they knew what was off limits.


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