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: 249

Replies to This Discussion

In terms of education, it would be great to see a webinar series that can be used for outreach to educate the non CI professional world about CI and how it can integrate with sales, marketing, product development and strategy. This is something SCIP is not doing that has always needed to be done.
Speaking of sharing, I just sent out announcements for a free webinar I am doing on defending against competitive intelligence, a subject near and dear to me. I cannot do something like that for SCIP, since they want to assume the rights, then republish and sell it. As many of you know, the amount of time put into creating something like this is considerable and if I wanted to sell it, I would. If this is useful in creating this CI knowledge base, please feel free to use it. John McGonagle
Funny you should mention the issues of content creation, money, and intellectual property rights.

Here's how I see this, now and forever: Content belongs to the creators, and the vast majority if not all of the money generated from its use should go directly to the creator.
As a governing principle, the coin of the realm is no longer cash, but ideas. Frankly, as long as whatever we come up with never accepts a dime of money directly, I'll be happy with it. Pay as you go for events, find a sponsor if you can, use free tools for everything else or share the commercial tools we already have invested in with colleagues.
Imagine true sustainability: the inputs are practically free, everything gets used at the time, and hoarding destabilizes the system. Use resources only when you need them, for high-value activities, NOT hoard cash for overhead.

Things are easier and cheaper than you might imagine. Let's focus on the FUN.
The discussion of technology tools and also open source information is interesting. I just finished looking at the education industry and there is a strong movement among universities and online education institutions to create a body of open source, online course materials that can be used by educators. Wonder if we should do something similar?

Also, I was recently approached by a former IBM consulting database and analytics consultant who has a startup company that is developing software applications for analytics. He claims to have the decision support and dashboard software development capability and knowledge/experience related to a BI technology tool that the CIA and FBI are using versions of, and willingness to build something for CI in multiple languages but needs a subject matter expert to work with. So if anyone is interested, let me know.
Hello Claudia,
I'm involved with a group in Israel that has developed a very strong analytical tool relevant also to CI.Please let me know more about their needs and I can put them throught. Avner
I've gone ahead and compiled the various topics and contributions from this excellent discussion in to a powerpoint framework to make it easier to look at. All edits are most welcome - and if anyone has a better tool, I'm happy to transfer to that instead!
Great start Valerie and great meeting you last night!

On the slides about other orgs and membership, frankly, I'm of a mind that anyone with an interest can participate, free of financial charge but with an expectation that they contribute to the ongoing dialog - that way, it doesn't matter what SLA, SCIP, PDMA, etc. are doing - they can still do it and their members don't feel like they have to make a zero-sum choice - this isn't an association really then... it's a movement.
Hi Valery, Your presentation seems to be a good strating point.How we move forward?
Hi Eric!

Thank you for creating this new Group. Living in a world which essentially has bursted in the last couple of years, one in which the smoke has yet not cleared enough for anyone to be able to see where the new pockets of opportunity and later the permanent settlements of opportunity will arise, it would be very interesting to be a member of this group. Sharing ideas and generating discussion about how we can learn about the future before it happens. I totally agree with your view about not allowing the recent failures of intelligence to be used as a pretext for undermining the use of intelligence in the future. The sound of such pretexts can be heard e.g. among those who have already declared the Death of Capitalism as a cause of the financial crisis. I believe there will be more need for intelligence and analysis if the world e.g. moves in a direction where more has to be done with fewer resources. Personally, I will use my skills in these disciplines to ensure that my future clients select financially and commercially viable companies in their sourcing programs. With these words, I would like to be included as a member in the Intelligence Collaborative. - Ari
Welcome aboard Ari!


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