Competitive Intelligence

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

We live in an era of transforming economies, simmering terrorism, transitioning institutions, and few historical analogues to guide us. As such, intelligence, in all its manifestations, is a matter of life and death, prosperity and poverty, reason and superstition, light and dark. It is our profession and our passion, and we must support it now, more than ever. We must come together for dialogue, education, and mutual support.


Intelligence has never been more important, yet it finds itself on hard times. In the past few years, the word itself has suffered a number of scandals. At the government level, America’s national intelligence apparatus missed the weak signals leading up to the greatest attack on its soil since Pearl Harbor, if not 1812. Shortly following September 11, the architects of the war in Iraq used an incompetent reading of Iraq’s military capacity to justify a war that has proved immeasureably costly in blood and treasure.

In the private sector, nearly every purveyor of business analysis was caught flatfooted throughout the 2000s, failing to understand or foresee the bursting of an economic bubble from which we suffer today. At the center of this catastrophe were financial analysts who judged, using their own intelligence methdology, that a large group of financial instruments were AAA-grade debt, despite being composed of nothing but fantasy and fraud. Instead of recognizing the failure of their intelligence, the cataclysmic (yet predictable) event is portrayed as an act of God, totally random, and business resumes as usual, plus or minus a few trillion in bailouts.

In all of these catastrophe’s, where was intelligence?


Given these unfortunate developments, if the general public is skeptical when someone calls themselves an intelligence professional, it is probably not their fault. We have much to answer for. We have these failures to answer for. Despite these knocks, we cannot abandon intelligence, especially at this moment in history. Our role in society has never been so important. The changes that await us in the 21st century require foresight and decisive action, and only a rigorous methodology can provide it.

The values of intelligence are those that make a free society; a sound company; a competent government. Those values are:

• Reason
• Rigor
• Open dialogue
• Diversity of opinion and expertise

These values are so critically important because they are the opposite of brute force, superstition, cult of personality, dogma, absolutism, violence and tyranny, where an elect few tell us what the world looks like. In a world guided by the values of intelligence, we see the world for what it is, and have the free will to make rational decisions. The values promised by intelligence are democracy itself. They link our profession directly to Voltaire’s Enlightenment. Those men and women of the Enlightenment fought, suffered and died for the triumph of science-based liberal democracy over absolutist theocracy. They grew up in a world where reality was decreed from on high, and if you disagreed, you were imprisoned or tortured until your opinions were judged to be acceptable. The Lumières were surrounded by the teachings of Newton, Lavoisier, Coulomb and hundreds of others, and envisioned a world of reason, scientific method, and progress away from the violent domination of tyrants. Their adoption of reason as a guiding value led directly to the American and French Revolutions, and has subsequently led representative government to triumph over domination almost everywhere on Earth.

Thus, we cannot give up on intelligence due to the recent failures of a few; it would be like giving up on freedom itself.


The skills and values we promise to the world’s organizations could not be of greater importance, and that is why we must continue to grow and thrive in spite of recent failures and misunderstanding of intelligence. We need a fraternity to unite us beyond the simple expediency of our jobs of the moment, our clients of the day. We need each other, now more than ever. We need to share our experiences and points of view, for mutual learning and support, for the public support of our discipline. Intelligence professionals from around the world, calling themselves a variety of titles and holding a wealth of different skills must come together to advance our shared discipline.

The intelligence profession requires a COLLABORATIVE with standards, priviliges and obligations akin to masons, carpenters, and especially physicians. There is currently no group that occupies this need for people with various skill sets and the common desire to help leaders of all kinds make more enlightened decisions. We must meet together for mutual learning and support, to advance the cause of our profession, but this cannot possibly happen under the roof of any group whose goal is anything other than the improvement of the profession itself, for the benefit of all.

A next-generation collaborative for intelligence professionals should do the following:

Bring together a wide range of professionals who are sensing, analyzing, understanding, and discussing the world around us. It is time for the walls to fall between business intelligence, competitive intelligence, marketing, strategy, librarians, etc. We should bring together a great wealth of diverse views on the same goals. We can focus on professionalism and not dogma. We can learn from each other and support each other.

Educate aspiring professionals in the state of the art of the discipline. A collaborative can select the best original research and training for professionals in the intelligence field, without a profit motive as a corrupting influence.

Improve the public understanding of intelligence. A collaborative should present a coherent view of what intelligence is, how it is practiced by the preeminent professionals in a variety of fields, and why every organization should understand and use the skills of professional intelligence. This way, some leaders cannot abuse intelligence, confusing it in the mind of the public for the dogmatic absolutism it really is.

There are variety of techniques that will make this possible. Modern information technology can unite us with minimal cost. Bureaucratic overhead and expense can be kept to a minimum. Dialogue and openness can take the place of central control and secrecy. We can all work together to support the field, include the world in our dialogue, and evolve our shared work as information professionals.

We can then focus our energy on improving the world as a whole.

Sincerely submitted,

Eric Garland

Views: 270

Replies to This Discussion

Great post - you had me at HELLO - I'm in - I'll share with the whole community here to try and spread the word and we can start to talk about what comes next.

- Arik
You have me but getting the rest of the dinosaurs may prove to be impossible. Carolyn M. Vella
Echoing Arik: I'm in. Great idea.

Excellent statement of the problem. It points up the consequences of misunderstanding this discipline (and the outright MISUSE of the discipline).

It especially highlights the consequences in foreign policy as well as in business of poor intelligence, as well as the sister problem of asking the wrong questions to start with.

As raw information has become easier to obtain, the core discipline has been badly eroded, and needs definition and support. Without this definition and support, the discipline will suffer or even cease to separately exist.

Need each other?

"Well I'm gonna to go then. And I don't need any of this. I don't need this stuff, and I don't need you. I don't need anything except this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game, the ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that's all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that's all I need. And that's all I need too. I don't need one other thing, not one - I need this. The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. And this. And that's all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair."

-- Well somebody had to be the jerk (and I'm usually available). ;)

But seriously... I think the absolute foundation of the problem is a vast misunderstanding of what intelligence actually is -- namely the gathering, generating and evaluating of abstracted information, analyses, and knowledge about any and all facets of the past, present and future tactical and strategic environment for the purpose of decision-making, planning, and action-taking.

Since the information, analyses, and knowledge are always abstracted from and about facets of the environment, they are inherently associated with some degree of confidence and inaccuracy, and thus must be differentiated from concepts like "data" and "facts" which convey concrete certainty to audiences. It is when we fell to adequately provide decision-makers and action-takers with an evaluation of the quality and confidence of the intelligence -- an understanding of the uncertainties associated with the information, analyses, knowledge and conclusions -- that they fail to understand the role of intelligence in informing and improving decision-making and action-taking and mistake intelligence for data-gathering and fact-based quantitative analyses. As I've been known to say, since intelligence is, by definition, an abstraction from the facts and things being abstracted, it is inherently and always wrong to some extent (since it is not actually the thing itself). The question is how wrong are we, and how powerful is our rightness for improving the decisions and actions at hand.

If we really want to begin promoting an integrated community of Strategic Intelligence Decision-Support Professionals, then we need to begin with a deep understanding of the what Strategic Intelligence is, isn't, and it's role in organizations.

With that foundation, we can then begin integrating the various schisms of the analytic community into a cohesive whole to better research and analyze the strategic environment for improved decision-making, planning, and action-taking -- bringing the Competitive Intelligence community together with Market Researchers, Strategic Planners, Financial Forecasters, Corporate Development/Alliance Analysts, Technology and Product Assessors, and the world of Data-Warehousing, Data Mining, Business Intelligence and Knowledge Management (and perform these analyses over time through Future Studies/Trend Forecasting).

I've tried to graphically demonstrate all these various communities and their relationships (or lack thereof) graphically at (I've also tried to upload the image). I hope it proves helpful, and like this post helps spark some thoughts and/or discussion.

Max Nelson
Hello, Max, taking account of such facts as Madoff investment scandal ( ), I'd like to add various undercover investigators and competent prosecutors to your list of the Competitive Intelligence community collaborators. :-)

Paraphrasing Arik (and of course Renee Zellweger), Eric had me at "We."

Excellent concept. I'm in as well.

I especially like the nod to modern information technology employment. For the selection of original research perhaps a "Digg" type of tool could be used. For an organizational model perhaps something along the lines of the ECGI (European Corporate Governance Institute)?

Richard Telofski
The DIGG concept applied to peer-reviewed research has never been suggested. Very cool concept. In my discussions with existing "collaborators" we have seen written content as something to be shared freely on any website that houses us. I think this aspect of social media will be very well applied here.
Count me in. There is power in numbers.
How do we start? John
OMG! The dinosaurs actually can see their way into the future. SCIP is certainly stuck in the past as the "call for proposals" makes clear. Carolyn
Please let me know how I can assist. I have experience in developing industry organizations/thought leadership and would be happy to help develop something concrete and actionable.




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