DIY versus Using Others

August 28, 2014

 One of the advantages you have when you’re doing competitive intelligence for your own use is that you already immersed in the problem’s origins. That is, you understand what is going on, what your needs are, and the issue that you will have to approach. If you are dealing with a third-party provider of CI, whether it’s someone down the hall or an outside private firm, you first have to brief them on what the issue is. They are not starting their work fully immersed in the issue, even if they work in the same company you do.

In the context of CI processes within a company, there is an additional issue.

Many CI teams are centralized, that is, all the members of the team work in the same office or offices, meet with each other regularly during the day and serve their internal clients from that location. This has the advantage of cross-fertilization of ideas as well as of research solutions within the CI team, but it tends to isolate the CI analyst from his or her client.

A common option is to embed CI team members with the business units that they are supporting. The idea here is that they will be, like you, swimming in the sea of day-to-day contact with the specific part of the business that they support. However, that means that they lose daily contact with their CI peers, and thus lose some of the benefits of working together.

As with governmental and military intelligence, there is no clearly better option.

In your situation as a CI DIYer, try to provide that missing cross-fertilization of CI ideas, experience, and solutions by attending meetings or webinars about CI.


Competitive intelligence and small businesses

August 20, 2014

A professional acquaintance of mine, Pascal Frion, recently forwarded me a synopsis of his thesis[1]. In his research, he concluded that CI’s traditional approach to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) has failed due to its “shallowness”.

Let me give you my take on his conclusions. (What follows is how I understand his work and my reacti0ns to it).

Pascal found that there were difficulties both in initially adopting CI and in low profitability after the implementation of CI. He concludes this is due to CI’s traditional justifications, those which focus on information that is available. That approach, in his mind, holds that “it is sufficient to access, collect and analyze information to improve the situation, to innovate, to protect, to gain performance and international competitiveness.”

Pascal concludes that

“information must not be the center of the universe of CI. Stronger operational considerations need to be used, including a defocusing complex approach of the ‘action to inform oneself’, more human oriented, not starting with information monitoring.”

He suggests an approach which starts by recognizing a state which he feels explains this problem: the MIR (the Methodological Resistance to Information). In other words, CI advocates should recognize that MIR, in his view a temporary state, has developed to deal with information overload, and exists and flourishes because it “actually saves time and can provoke critical discussions”.

In other words (my words), SMEs are inherently resistant to processes, including CI, that purport to offer them more information, more data, more to do, etc. To them, and to others, CI should be offering not more, but better – better information, better data, and actionable results.

It is the role of CI’s advocates, therefore, to make their case to SMEs in terms other than merely “you need more [good] information/intelligence and CI can provide that”. Interesting.

Your thoughts?

[1] ” Genealogy of the low breakthrough of the Competitive Intelligence discourse in French Small Companies: Epistemological mistakes and operational proposals” by Pascal Frion, defended in 2012, on December 7th, at the University of Poitiers (France). This thesis is available at

Information security

August 12, 2014


One biggest problems for those of us who are sensitive to the power of competitive intelligence is realizing how much competitively sensitive information from your business is potentially available to your competitors. One of the most interesting things about this is the fact that major problems in this are come most often from two sources:

  • Senior members of your business that know more competitively sensitive information than others do, but are not sensitive to that. In other words, the higher they are, the more they may inadvertently release.
  • You.

You? Yes. Let me give you a couple of quotes which I find relevant (and amusing):

  • From a retired US military officer, just this past weekend, talking to a news reporter about current international developments (I paraphrase) “I’ve talked to many of my friends in the military intelligence establishment, and they are telling me….”
  • From the fictional British barrister Rumpole of the Bailey: “Lawyers and priests deal largely secrets, being privy to matters which are not meant for the public view. I don’t know how it is in the religious life… but barristers are mostly indiscreet. Go into Pommeroy’s Wine bar [a lawyers’ hangout] any evening with when the Chateau Fleet Street [a cheap wine] is flowing and you may quickly discover who’s getting a divorce or being libelled (sic), which judge got which lady pupil in the club, or which Member of Parliament relaxes in female apparel.”[1]

What they should tell us is that as we become privy to sensitive information, we have a tendency to share it. Unfortunately, we may also lose perspective on with whom we share it, talking with friends, relatives and those with whom we do business, in and out of the company. And then they share it….

Let me give you a short example of what I mean (company name deleted to protect the…speaker):

At an annual meeting of SCIP (then the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals, now Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals), the CEO of a large consumer products company addressed a special session of about 150 SCIP members. He was accompanied on stage by his CI team leader.

In his remarks, he described how the company was going to reorganize, with particular emphasis on how that reorganization would eventually impact the CI team as well as all of its various major product lines.

Sitting in front of me were 2 employees from a key competitor, looking shocked. When they recovered, after asking me “Does he know where he is?”[2], they began taking notes with a vengeance.

At the same time, the CI team leader tried to vanish into the chair. You see, the team leader was unaware of the details of the CEO’s remarks – not to mention the fascinating, detailed overheads which accompanied it. The commitment of the CEO was that his speech could be video recorded and made available to all SCIP members, featuring of course, the great overheads. It was. The team leader, following the speech, tried desperately to keep that distribution from happening. All the leader was able to do was get a 3 month delay, thus delaying, but not defeating, my friends in the row ahead of me.

So, in terms of CI security, keep in mind what the cartoon sage of the 60s and 70s, Pogo said: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”[3]

[1] John Mortimer, “Rumpole and the Official Secret”, in The Second Rumpole Omnibus, 1987, p. 513.

[2] He most certainly was warned. The head of CI at another competitor, presiding over the session, introduced the speaker, noting slyly that he was certainly “very, very familiar” with the speaker.

[3] Walt Kelly, “Pogo”, 1970,

Too Intense?

August 6, 2014

Everyone has a hobby – right? Well they should if they do not. You have to have a way to clear your mind – before work clutters it up again.

What kind of hobby? That is very personal. There are dozens of snappy quotes about hobbies and hobbyists. They have no real theme, but talk of hobbies being relaxing (or not), or financially worthwhile (or not), or just arcane (that is, boring to everyone but those involved with them).

From my perspective, I think that a good hobby (or hobbies), at least for people doing competitive intelligence, should have several elements, in no particular order:

  • Intellectually focused. If not, how can you clear your mind of all of the junk you have accumulated from the prior week’s work? You do that by filling it with new junk.
  • Satisfying. When you are done, how do you feel? Pleased is good, but so is mentally refreshed.
  • Physically active. Not vital, but all of us can use whatever help we can find to maintain or improve our health.
  • Inexpensive (relatively). Own your hobby – do not let your hobby own you.

Not annoying to your spouse/significant other. Enough said.

So what hobbies have I had or do I have?

  • Gardening – Seasonal, of course. But physically active.
  • Target shooting. It really forces you to focus, if only for short bursts of time.
  • Reading – Perhaps too much. I am reading 2-3 non-work associated books at any time.
  • Pedigreed cats – We did this for many years – breeding, showing, judging and living with them, in addition to writing multiple books about them. Demanding, but with very high levels of enjoyment.
  • Collecting beer mugs – Very demanding, requiring the regular use of all of these containers with appropriate beverages to keep them in shape (VBG).

What do they have in common (except that I do them)? They are all intense. That intensity helps to me to relax. What about you?