Secondary is not necessarily second rate

November 5, 2013

When we talk about research for competitive intelligence and other types of research, we tend to classify it into secondary research, or what some people call desk or library research, and primary, that is interview based, research. The unfortunate part of this terminology is that secondary somehow carries with it the inference that it is second rate, while primary is carrying the inference that it is somehow superior.

While primary certainly is critical, particularly to developing CI on issues like intentions and capabilities, secondary research is not only vital to prepare for your primary research, it is also vital in and of itself.

Let me give you an example of that. Some weeks ago Tom Clancy, the well-known author of techno-thrillers, passed away. For those not familiar with the genre, the techno-thriller includes as a major part of its presentation very detailed information on the use of and the capabilities of technology, such as what  technology systems can do, how information technology really operates, etc.

In Clancy’s case, he dealt with weapons, weapons systems, military tactics and military strategy. The story is told that following the release of his first big hit, The Hunt for Red October, Clancy was interviewed by representatives of US Naval Intelligence. Their concern was that he “obviously” had access to top-secret information that he drew upon when describing the capabilities of both US and Soviet war submarines. Clancy, then an insurance broker by trade, finally was able to convince US Naval Intelligence that he did not access to top-secret information to write his compellingly accurate book. Rather, so the story goes, Clancy told them that everything that was in the book, which was very accurate, he had located in the open source materials made available to him in the reading room at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.

So don’t sell secondary research short. And before you jump into your primary research, make sure you have completed your secondary research.


3 Comments on “Secondary is not necessarily second rate”

  1. […] Secondary is not necessarily second rate → […]


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