Where is competitive intelligence going? (Part 2)

February 15, 2013

One of the factors affecting where competitive intelligence will be going in the next 5 to 10 years is the growing, albeit slowly, presence of courses at the college and university levels dealing with competitive intelligence. That growth can be seen, indirectly, in the growth of the International Association For Intelligence Education.

Through these courses, the cadre of people available to conduct some CI for businesses, nonprofits and the like will be growing gradually. But the CI business will have to adjust and adapt.

In the past, those entering the CI business have been either self-trained or government trained. In the former case, they represented people from a wide variety of disciplines including market research, the law, statistics, library science and the like; in the latter case they represented national intelligence, both military and nonmilitary, as well as state and local intelligence, typically law enforcement.

That meant people who were working in CI were already used to functioning in the business and government environments. With people coming out of colleges and universities having had courses in CI, we are dealing out with a group of people who are not yet used to working, but understand, perhaps more clearly than some of the dinosaurs, the principles of and best practices in CI.

So what does this mean? It means that those in the CI business, whether in company CI units or working as outside consultants/contractors, have to look at the way that we recruit and integrate new members of our teams. In the past, we were recruiting and working with people who knew how to work, while perhaps not being familiar with CI. Now, in some cases, we’re looking at the opposite.

My concern is that not all of us are in the position to do this. The ones best positioned for this are company CI units, where the corporate culture is more used to bringing in undergraduate or graduate level entrants, training them in the “company way” and utilizing them while developing their skills.

This is not a methodology which many of those in the CI business on the consultant/contracting side are probably familiar with. This, coupled with the coming influx of individuals who are government trained, I think will result in a change as follows:

For those in the CI units, they will see a building up from the bottom, bringing in individuals knowledgeable in competitive intelligence, but not experienced in it. That could mean that the awareness of CI throughout businesses will expand as these new employees disburse throughout the enterprise – even if they do not do CI on a full-time basis.

For those on the consultant/contracting market space, it means continuing to bring in individuals with more work experience, but still with little experience in competitive intelligence. In the past, as CI was growing, it was easy to integrate people like this because, frankly, we were all developing competitive intelligence to the point where it stands today. But tomorrow? Will that mean that this wave will continue to add to building CI? I suspect that we should be able to see a change in that those coming in are not building competitive intelligence, so much as refining it and applying it differently.

Will this mark a divide in the backgrounds of the CI units and consultants/contractors? If so, what will that mean? I suspect it will make a significant difference in the next 5 to 10 years.

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