Competitive Intelligence

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

Preparing the e-course Operation of Surveillance and CSURV Devices ( ) for my prospective students, I've asked myself the following questions.

Are surveillance and competitive intelligence two separate areas of commercial investigations (as suggested, for example, at ) or are they not [for example, "The aspects of observation and surveillance, just like in any intelligence undertaking, should also be present in competitive intelligence." ( )? If the latter was true, what role would surveillance play in the work of Competitive Intelligence professionals? Do companies resist CI surveillance in the same manner as citizens resist state surveillance?

Would you please assist me in answering the above questions? In your opinion, should I multiply these questions? What else should be added?

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Daniel Boorstin: The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance -- it is the illusion of knowledge.

James Michener: An age is called Dark, not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it.


Another Viewpoint:

The concepts of 'evil,' 'evasion,' and 'inherently dishonest ideas' are psychological concepts that do not belong in philosophy. These concepts merely serve to give Objectivists unrestricted license to morally condemn other human beings. As a result, Objectivists end up treating their intellectual opponents (and each other) as people who can be despised and hated. This is what has torn the Objectivist movement apart for the last thirty years, and will continue to do so. The players change, but the game remains the same.
The power of moral judgment is enormous. The power to pronounce someone as an evil evader is the greatest power of all. By making such power available, subject only to whim, with no objective facts or principles to restrain it, Ayn Rand has unleashed a reign of intellectual terrorism. She has transformed many honest, well-meaning individuals into unjust dogmatic moralizers.

This propensity to engage in unjust moral condemnation is also what keeps Objectivism a tiny, insignificant intellectual movement that has all the appearance of a religious cult, and is seldom taken seriously in the academic world. People of self-esteem will not remain in a movement where a single mistake can result in having one's character, morality, and honesty attacked. In the same vein, spokesmen for other philosophical movements will not debate, nor take seriously, Objectivists who constantly attack their opponents' morality and intellectual honesty.

If you have ever wondered why so many Objectivists are so quick to pronounce their opponents as evil and dishonest, it's because they are honestly convinced that their opponents are evil and dishonest. If your only criterion for pronouncing someone to be evil and dishonest is the conclusion, "He can't be holding that idea honestly," then virtually anyone who opposes you can be instantly transformed into a dishonest evader. This also means that Objectivists who agree with Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff's psychological concepts of 'evil', 'evasion,' and 'inherently dishonest ideas,' will automatically end up insulting many of their opponents. Such an Objectivist, upon deciding that his opponent is expressing an inherently dishonest idea (and is therefore evading), will immediately declare his opponent to be a dishonest evader. Needless to say, if the opponent is holding his idea honestly, he will be immediately offended at having his character and honesty smeared in so unjust a manner. He will quite properly take it as an insult.

Fortunately for Objectivism, these unproven psychological assertions are not fundamental to the philosophy. The psychological concepts of 'evil,' 'evasion,' and 'inherently dishonest ideas' can be discarded with no significant effect on the structure of the philosophy. The unjust moralizing, which has become a virtual trademark of Objectivism, can be eliminated. These unproven psychological concepts represent the tragic errors of Ayn Rand (and are being perpetuated by Leonard Peikoff). The fact that Rand chose to incorporate such psychological concepts into her philosophy does not obligate the rest of us to make the same mistake.

It's very easy to avoid repeating Rand's mistakes. By leaving the psychological concepts of 'evil,' 'evasion,' and 'inherently dishonest ideas' out of the picture, we avoid the fatal mistake of mixing psychology with philosophy. Our judgments of other men will no longer require that we be armchair psychologists and psychiatrists. This completely eliminates the need to attempt the hopeless task of getting inside someone else's head, and trying to determine his actual mental motivation.

What is the proper form of moral judgment? Morality is a code of values that tells a man how he should act to protect and promote his life. Since morality is so critically important, moral judgment takes on a life-or-death importance. The wrong moral judgment can get you killed. Moral judgment comes in two very different flavors; judging yourself, and judging others. Because their contexts are so different, these two different types of moral judgment require very different standards.

Personal moral judgment is something each individual man must do inside his own mind. Each man must constantly ask, "Am I acting in my rational self-interest? Am I being rational? Am I being honest?" Each man must ask (and answer) these questions for himself. No one else can do it for him.

Moral judgment of others is quite different from personal moral judgment. Unlike the contents of your own mind, the thoughts, reasoning, and volitional processes of other men are not available to you. Any attempt to morally judge someone else that depends on knowing the contents of his mind, will never be anything more than a guessing game. And it's an unjust game, guaranteed to alienate everyone in your sphere of influence.

Moral judgment that requires us to determine the mental state of another man, is worthless. Ever since Rand proposed this impossible standard, Objectivists have been scrambling to find ways to implement it. Peikoff's concept of 'inherently dishonest ideas' is simply the latest doomed attempt. Actually, there is one very common technique that most Objectivists use to determine the mental state of another man. This technique is called 'guessing'.

Any proper moral judgment of other men must rely on facts that are readily available to anyone; not facts that only a trained psychiatrist could hope to obtain. What are the facts that can be used for moral judgment?

Ayn Rand wrote that, "Morality is a code of values to guide man's choices and actions, that determine the purpose and the course of his life." Accordingly, judging the morality of others requires that we judge how well they are adhering to a code of rational values, rather than trying to discern the actual motivations of another man's mind (as Rand and Peikoff would have us do). In broadest terms, are other men acting in a pro-life, or anti-life manner? Are they being rational, or irrational? Are they using reason, or emotion? Do they tell the truth?

We base such judgments on direct observations of a man's actions, statements, and conscious convictions. Such judgments are not always easy to make, and they can never be made quickly, but none of them requires us to determine if a man is 'evading,' or is advocating an 'inherently dishonest idea,' or is 'evil.' To try to answer any of these last three questions, is to push moral judgment into the realm of unjust fantasy.

If a man is performing life-threatening actions, or advocating life- threatening ideas, then he is doing bad things (for whatever reason), and we must take steps to protect ourselves from him. It isn't necessary to judge the true motivation of the man. Not only is the task virtually impossible, but in most cases we simply don't care what his motivation is. All we need to know is that he's doing bad things that threaten us. He's not acting in a rational manner. It doesn't matter if he's doing these things as a result of 'honest error' or 'evasion.' The end result is the same.

Moral judgment does not mean deciding if someone is motivated by an honest mistake, or by evasion. That is a job for the specialized sciences of psychology and psychiatry, not philosophy. Any attempt to enter the realm of these specialized sciences, armed only with the principles of philosophy, will end in utter disaster. This was the tragic mistake of Ayn Rand, but we need not perpetuate it.

Just as the valid parts of the philosophy of Aristotle have survived, so will much of the philosophy of Ayn Rand. But just as we have discarded Aristotle's ethical concept of the 'virtuous Athenian', so should Ayn Rand's psychological concepts of 'evil,' 'evasion,' and 'inherently dishonest ideas' be discarded. Rand's attempt to mix psychology with philosophy should be relegated to the status of historical footnotes.
You are quite right, Vivek, to return to moral standards in CI. However, let me repeat the definition of surveillance taken from Longman Interactive American Dictionary ©Addison Wesley Longman 1997. Here it is.

a close watch kept on someone, ESP. SOMEONE WHO IS BELIEVED TO HAVE CRIMINAL INTENTIONS (emphasize mine)

Hence the classic question "May methods of fighting against unethical behavior be unethical?" For example, may CI professionals use surveillance in order to check whether competitors of their companies gather information about them only with the help of ethical methods? In simple words, are unethical methods of Competitive counter-Intelligence ever justified?

My view is very CI, serveillance means simply to "monitor" a company (it's patent activities e.g.,) a market or industry (via a working web portal set up to keep your client informed and up to date on activity) personal and professional view is that anything unethical or illegal should be untouchable by us, the CI practicioners....

David, forgive me, but taking account of all our discussions regarding the problem, including CI Elicitation Tactics: The Art and Science of Obtaining Game Changing Business Secrets ( ), Differences between Private Investigation and CI ( ), CI as a Dark Art: Do we need a new age of CI For The Straight Guy? ( ) and The motive CI movies for our students ( ), your view sounds like a statement of belief emphasized by the "expressing duty or what is necessary or desirable" word "should".

Best wishes,

P.S. Greetings from the ardent fan of Canadian The Border ( ) and Flashpoint ( ). :-)
In support of David's response - the term "surveillance" is another of those terms attached to CI that may have espionage-related connotations. It pays to define the term clearly per the context used. In this case, monitoring the activities of a company, market, influencers etc. is, in my book, the CI version of surveillance. I fear that others may envision the use of super telephoto lenses and covert recording devices, neither of which comes under my remit.
Lets not look at Competitive Intelligence in isolation - Micro picture.

Lets see the "Big Picture" ie the Corporate Battlefield.

In the Corporate Battlefield around the world, we cannot ignore the "Threat".

Technically it is about how we perceive threat.

Competitive Intelligence does not operate in Isolation.

Forces such as:

1. Class III Information Warfare
2. Psychological Warfare
3. Corporate Warfare

Take for example FUD factor being used by multinational businesses to De-Position competitors and Re-Position themselves to acquire and retain global markets.:

1. Fear
2. Uncertainity
3. Doubt.

Multinational Corporations Operating Environment Analysis consists of Forces such as Psychological Warfare and Information Warfare and Corporate Warfare.

Here we have a "Catch - 22" situation".

Catch - 22 situation - How we perceive Threat and how do we Mitigate Risk in the race of Economic Supremacy of Nations around the World.

The issue is not whether Surveillance is justified or ethical or unethical.
Hi, Vivek, although not you but August Jackson has quoted George Orwell on the forum of Competitive Intelligence ( ), just your message illustrates beautifully what George Orwell wrote with the following words.

When one looks at the all-prevailing schizophrenia of democratic societies, the lies that have to be told for vote-catching purposes, the silence about major issues, the distortions of the press, it is tempting to believe that in totalitarian countries there is less humbug, more facing of the facts. There, at least, the ruling groups are not dependent on popular favour and can utter the truth crudely and brutally. Goering could say "Guns before butter", while his democratic opposite numbers had to wrap the same sentiment up in hundreds of hypocritical words.
506 Should we understand THIS? 04/17/1999 12:53 AM, TadFromPoland ( ), available now at

Take UAE ( Monarchy ) for example.

A girl in micro-mini can walk alone at midnight without the fear of being molested or raped.

In how many countries around the world, can we give this kind of Freedom.
George Orwell is great BUT I advocate Andy Grove

"Only the Paranoid Survive"
> A girl in micro-mini can walk alone at midnight without the fear of being molested or raped.

The causes of that can be very various as suggests JPG pasted to one of my today's replies to the messages of my students ( ). ;-)

> Vivek Raghuvanshi

Dear Tadeusz,
On my opinion You mixed Operation of Surveillance as activity (area of commercial investigations) and as CI instrument. So Surveillance is a very effective instrument of CI. But it is so if only not directly prohibited by the Law.
Hello, Alex, I'd like to thank you for your reply. However, I couldn't have mixed "Operation of Surveillance as activity (area of commercial investigations) and as CI instrument" because I have only asked about the character of relations between them. Nonetheless, one of those who has the opinion "The aspects of observation and surveillance, just like in any intelligence undertaking, should also be present in competitive intelligence." ( ) is GSerrano ( ).

Best wishes,


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