Competitive Intelligence

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

For me, a HUGE part of this next generation intelligence concept is communication between disciplines. I believe more than ever that intelligence is the key to healthy organization. Still, the reality is that when I'm at cocktail parties and I describe what I do for a living, people look at me like my job title is "Jellybean Smuggler" or "Chainsaw Tuning Consultant." Sure, they can imagine people doing such a thing for work, but...what the hell?

I think the remedy is for us to start an active dialogue with almost every other discipline out there. We should be talking to marketing, product development, accountants, doctors, school teachers, everybody. This can mean inviting these people to digital dialogues, or it could mean joint meetings in person.

What kinds of people would you invite to party with us?

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Dude, I am totally changing my title to Jellybean Smuggler! Awesome!

Last night I gave a talk to the PDMA joint meeting with SCIP in Milwaukee and oriented my remarks toward the parallels of "desiloing" an intelligence apparatus post-9/11 among the national Intelligence Community with that same driver among the analytical disciplines in any business.

9/11 will always be a poignant, emotional example in the intelligence world (perhaps like Pearl Harbor was for the prior 50-plus years or so) and everybody in the room is guaranteed to be familiar with it, so it's sticky and way more concrete than the abstractions and vagaries we so often fall into when describing what we do... thus my use of the comparison to make the point of a similar priority in business to ensure sustainable competitiveness.

Only by removing the stovepipes that prevent functions (sales/marketing, R&D, M&A, competitor analysis, IT, security, finance, market research, etc.) from working together to solve problems collectively and with shared perspective can any organization derive a more complete picture of the external environment and industry change. That's fast becoming the real definition of intelligence in the business... not the spy vs. spy words like "competitive intelligence" so often elicit as a metaphor. The goal of all such enterprise collaboratives must necessarily then be to create consensus based on an honest, sincere assessment of the voice of dissenters and skeptics and use this shared vision within the organization to decide what to do next. Finally, I shared a few heuristics that makes this challenge a bit easier among the workforce at large that can be used to drive this level of intimate engagement and prevent turf wars.

As usual when I talk about this with a diverse audience such as last night's, this message went over big - REALLY BIG - not that I'm patting myself on the back, though, my kids give me enough of that for a lifetime ;-) my point in observing the saleability of the argument is, this engagement pitch sells, so it's my answer to your question above, Eric.

Both SCIP and PDMA folks alike "got it" that intelligence in business isn't any one of the analytical discipline's exclusive domain - it's all of theirs... together. That means having a complete - or at least, more complete - shared understanding of the information exhibiting the driving forces of change, but also in the collaboration process itself with colleagues who might be suffering under competing incentives which so often causes divergent decision making and schizophrenic behavior.

The message to management is simple but compelling: your window of opportunity on any given growth initiative closes so fast or is exploited by competitors so quickly that the only way to take advantage of it is to work together to create a shared understanding of what needs to be done. If management cannot or will not enable this, the company deserves to fail.

I described the governing analogy and a few principles in my interview with August Jackson a couple weeks ago as "mission command" - albeit a martial concept, modern military commanders don't tell their forces to "flank left" or "charge right" anymore - they tell them "we need to be on top of that hill over there by sunrise - hoo-rah!" and their forces move together as one to do it. Look at that Army ad campaign a few years ago for proof - "Force of One", right?! Autonomy pushed to the periphery for tactical and operational decisions, but a shared sense of strategic purpose guides everyone from above. In August's podcast, I used Cisco, Intel and Apple as companies who have this down - and it shows... it also shows in the innumerable examples of those companies who don't have this figured out. I will refrain from naming names so as to protect their carefully crafted illusions of competence.

In my view, that's what intelligence must do in business next and that is our mission as advocates and enthusiasts - to create a concerted understanding of what needs doing and make those outcomes possible by transforming data and information into insight. SCIP people and PDMA alike are ready and waiting.
Good job Eric and Arik. I plan to share this with my communities of interest, such as AIIP, Associate of Information Professionals. This group has such far reaching connection since IPs serve many industries, and in so many different ways: product development, business planning, sales improvement, marketing plans, intellectual property protection...yes we have some PIs. I will share their feedback here and let them know about CI Ning at the same time, since many of them are not members of our community --- yet! We are developing an ASP (Association of Strategic Planning) chapter in Denver and I see this a good conduit for our message, as we get rolling. I just attended my 1st PDMA meeting in Denver last night, and that group rocks too! I had to put on my engineering hat (which I don't have) and ask a lot of questions to follow the discussion, but this is a very open and sharing group -- the key ingredients. Let's keep up the momentum!

BTW I asked my husband about "Intelligence" as our descriptor. He is concerned that we might be too tied to the government's Intelligence community. I like to ask him about these things since he is an artist with a strong business background, and his first reactions to things have been very helpful in my 16 years in business! I know the words "Collective Intelligence" are already in use -- and differently from our intention, and we need to be unique. Here is an interesting article on "Collaborative Intelligence" from FUMSI which I like. That is also another great community to share this message with. I would be happy to write an article for that global audience!
I noticed the author of that article is a member here - Daphne Ruth Raban


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