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: 271

Replies to This Discussion

The age old dilemma Eric,

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way." - Charles Dickens
You know Eric,

Perfect choice of choosing the name as Intelligence Collaborative.

It always is intelligence and it always will be intelligence that will be competitive.

Intelligence which is competitive = Competitive Intelligence

One day Eric, we all should be Advisors to various governments and create a better world.

Oops! I sound like the Masons / Illuminati.

I think Eric and Arik, Intelligence leads to Enlightenment.

One day let the enlightened ones only be advisors and ambassadors to governments and United Nations.

I hope you guys do not smell ambition here.
I am sure that most of you are aware of Don Beck's model (Google Don Beck) which assists in explaining this very interesting and relevant posting. It is interesting to note that previous culture shifts of this type have been associated with rapid decrease in world population, usually through war but including plague, and I am interested to know to what extent we should try to activate and promote this…
"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."

Hear, hear, well said Eric, I couldn't have put that better myself.

The other week a Pharma CEO called and asked how we accurately predicted some trends last year that they (his Snr Man team) finally saw and understood just now. They nagged me into explaining how we gather and process huge amounts of data to arrive at advice for where the trends are going in oncology.

If anyone is interested, I tried to synthesise a brief synopsis here:

Although the post talks about blogs, we actually use it daily for CI capture and analysis as well. They make the job easier and faster.

Of course, what all the data in the world can't do is make it easier to analyse and generate insights - Gladwell's 10,000 hours in a specialist area to reach expertise really does apply in many cases.

My answer to the action issue is that we need to keep trying to lead from the front - eventually you get a reputation for your expertise and people/teams come calling, as two did this week for us because they needed people who could see and work cross-functionally.

People can argue for hours about process, bureaucracy and top-down vs bottom up change, but in the final analysis the only thing you can control is yourself, so why not be and live as a agent of change and others around you will adjust accordingly.

By this, I mean a different approach such as what I said to the CEO: "Maybe we should stop trying to predict the future and start creating the future? With the right products and people, the company could become transformational in this space."

He finally got it and starting drive change himself. Yee ha!
I'm referring from two perspectives – one as a strategic consultant working closely with CI units in larger corporations supporting them in creating valuable intelligence and the other as teaching CI in MBA program. The primary challenge is building CI unit that gives a significant added value. Clearly a CI director is unable to reach that goal without a close collaboration internally. Among his contacts are experts in various fields. Later it is the ability to deliver to the decision makers and receiving feedback of substance. The internal collaboration of intelligence is progressing slowly in many organizations. I'm trying to convince CI director to change their perception and to understand that they depend on internal collaboration.


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