Competitive Intelligence

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

Just discovered this excellent video on transformational change from Michel Cartier and Jon Husband:

Are You Ready for the 21st Century ? from Michel Cartier on Vimeo.

If we are really in a third wave of economic and social revolution, what kinds of intelligence are needed to keep our organizations healthy?

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Excellent - thanks for sharing Eric!

Aurora sponsored the keynote by Stéphane Garelli at SCIP's Euro Summit in Amsterdam last fall and one of the major takeaways was that complexity is the real problem for the future of enterprises (and non-business institutions) everywhere.

There's a LOT of support for this thesis, but to say that productivity in the future will come from design thinking in all that we do is an agenda I'm specifically energized about and pursuing with gusto in my new role leading an intelligence R&D lab.

I have never been more excited about this work as I am today - looking forward to helping intelligence keep up and hope you'll join me - you, specifically Eric, but everybody here on the Ning as well.

Positive energy, absolutely!

This, to me, is an answer to the somewhat perennial discussion about "why isn't competitive intelligence loved and adored automatically by 'senior management?'" It's always had a faint whiff of victimization.

Time to shake that off. There is so much original work that is possible precisely because of this colossal Gordian knot of disruptive changes happening in real time. If our goal is to fit standard 1980s "winner take all" territorial competition over the top of a world of transformation, yes, people will ignore us. But if we figure out a way to provide insights into these transformations with a higher degree of reliability than simply guessing or depending on old superstitions, we've got something to tell the world.

Pretty cool, really.
That's diagnostic of CI's waning influence ... nostalgic dogmatism of yesteryear built atop the crumbling empires of theory and doctrine growing less and less relevant as descriptive of our real circumstances. I've grown increasing impatient over the years with overbuilt complexity for complexity's sake.

I'm reading "The Design of Business" by Roger Martin (of "The Opposable Mind") at the moment and finding it prescient in its thesis - "Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage" - maybe we should gin up the Book Club here and talk it over? Martin has a bunch of great essays on BusinessWeek worth skimming as well.

Heck maybe we could invite him to a Friday #IntelCollab call?
I love the book club idea. Can I add "What Would Google Do?" "Here Comes Everybody" and "True Enough" to our deep-thoughts reading list?
Finally got "Here Comes Everybody" the other day in softcover - WWGD is on my Amazon wish list.
Oh and I'm a big Manjoo fan from ;-)

Spot on, and well said. You are precisely right with regard to the fact that colossal changes are happening in real time and that to be successful on a go forward basis - CI must provide pertinent insights/SEWs into these transformational paradigm shifts to enable the business leaders we support to make critical, informed decisions.

That said, I think this is going to require a radically different emphasis for many CI analysts given we are in uncharted waters fiscally and so much of which way things are going to swing is inherently predicated on ever evolving governmental economic policies. So, where this gets interesting is this precipitates a need for CI to very actively follow the conversation in DC, partner with some of the "quants" that got us into this mess to really get underneath all the BS, remaining systemic risk, legalities, complexity of our vaporware economy; also with social psychologists because the old belief systems about money, obligation, responsibility have been thoroughly annihilated as the result of the manipulation in the housing market and the resultant bank bailouts. We are going to have to get comfortable delving into the world of structured finance which is squarely what got us into this mess, and try to understand the impact of any given effort to "unwind" and put us back on more solid footing while keeping a keen eye on public sentiment and reaction. Yes, this is a very different role I would suppose for many CI analysts...

I must check out that book. It would be great to sometimes have a "speaker" in an interactive sense in the Intel Collab calls.

I think we will all have to look much harder at those "corner of the eye" phenomena that shake our markets and businesses when we don't pay attention to them. Many companies also seem to be recognizing it's not a zero sum game.

In a recent project a customer said he doesn't believe companies who say they can do everything and prefers to work with organizations that go out and buy smaller companies with knowledge and new functionality. In that same market vendors are teaming up to cross companies in terms of building complete sets of capabilities to meet the technology needs of the market.

It's just not linear any more, and building more complex enterprises doesn't work as you point out. Interesting discussion!

Nice catch Eric. Very provocative yet so right. I agree with the main thesis. We are at a point where society and particularly leaders in our society (including business leaders) will have to make choices that will affect us for a long time. I don't agree that making the right choice is making a choice between economic viability and personal or national security. In the centre of the discussion comes all the time the notion of security. One of our fundamental. Basic instinct for all of us. Indifferently how you look at it (economic security, physical security, personal security, etc.) security will be the starting and ending point of the discussion. That goes for a nation or a company. Now, some will usurp the discussion and try to scare the others to help their own agenda (sounds like déjà vu???) but ultimately, they are just working for themselves in a very selfish, conservative way. I specialized my entire career on intelligence and security and very quickly it became clear to me that we must focus on INSECURITY not security. If I can reduce INSECURITY, de facto I am improving security. That goes again for any company. The sole purpose of intelligence (competitive, security, economic, etc) is to EMPOWER decision makers. WE have as intelligence analyst a great opportunity and responsibility. Question is....can we see beyond the old paradigms of the modern framework? Can we see beyond accounting sheets? That is where Freakeconomic becomes interesting.
Thanks again for posting that video.
Michel Juneau-Katsuya
Good question, Eric. That's where the value of good CI really shows its advantage. Few companies are aware of today, so with CI they can stay on top of changes as they are occurring or in their early stages, when the opportunities are greatest.

In addition, CI needs to include the external factors of change - in society, in culture, and in all other aspects that impact that specific industry.

Companies benefit from CI that does not focus on data, competitors and software - but rather understands the bigger picture and how the individual company can continue to satisfy customers and therefore keep the company healthy.
Eric -
Great topic. I'm familiar with Jon Husband's work so this particularly caught my eye.

The interesting thing is that in the various discussions going about the current changes, whether we're calling them a "Seismic shift", "disruptive innovation" or something else, is that there are some broad lessons from history we can apply to this. I think this video (despite the tendency to unsupported assertions) actually does a better job than most, of looking at changes beyond the easy view of "this one technology, or this one event, is the focal point of change".

And you are, in my opinion, asking the right question - what kinds of intelligence do we need?
Perhaps, though the ancillary question is: What are the skills that will allow organizations to build the intelligence that they need? Fundamentally organizations are going to need the same kind of skills that will be needed by society at large. Coming from a scientific background, it is hard for me to admit that the real need for intelligence is not so much in those nice comfortable technical skills, the need is going to be in the area "soft skills".

Technology changes, but people don't. Any time there has been a cultural shift, there will be idealists, opportunists, and large chunk of the population who are too busy to care what the big picture implications are. How the future plays out will hinge a lot on the development and application a few fundamental skills:

* the ability to filter information and quickly grasp what is essential (much of which can be done with technical aids, but there's still no substitute for intuitive knowledge when selecting what to read and what to ignore). Young professionals I talk to say, "I don't need knowledge, I can look it all up." This worries me, because you can't do that quick assessment if you don't have a deep understanding and a frame of reference. We need to help young professionals and students recognize this.

* the ability to assess information rapidly, and I don't just mean business analysis. I'm talking about how quickly can you spot a logical fallacy; or, equally, how many unsupported assertions do you catch and question in the rapid fire steady flow of information that crosses your screen each day.

A lot of the old skills still hold up, but with the current information stream being accurately compare to "drinking out of a fire hose" (and rapidly expanding to something more like "drinking out of Niagra Falls") those who can filter and assess rapidly are not only a needed asset for most organizations, they are also the ones who are best positioned to respond to the ugly other side of this new world of 2.0 networked information. Because there will be an ugly side (think about the uses of mass media in its early days of prevalence in the early 20th century). And most people are too busy just getting through their day's work to see that side.

Ultimately how we learn to respond to this explosion of information and networking will have far broader implications than the field of in intelligence, but I think CI professionals and other information professionals are uniquely positioned to see the promise and the pitfalls and to respond to them effectively.


Arik also makes a great point about complexity. Snowden's work in the Cynefin framework has been very helpful to me in this area.
The change that concerns me is this- through the Industrial ages as put forth in the presentation, we understood quality through performance and output, meaning, companies that created goods, drilled oil, built railroads, or any other "output" were successful because the output was worthwhile and of quality (i.e- useful). For example, Ford made a good product, which increased sales, which allowed him to continue the process.
If knowledge will be the source or seat of power in the next economy, then the qualification of knowledge becomes crucial. We see this today in blogs, websites, et al. Whose knowledge is trustworthy? How is it codified? Much like the early 2000's when putting a credit card on the web was essentially like the Old West, until security standards were set. If knowledge is truly the locus of power in the next society, then the job of intelligence is to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to sourcing that knowledge and disseminating it.


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