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, http://www.thisdayinquotes.com/2011/04/we-have-met-enemy-and-he-is-us.html


One Comment on “Information security”

  1. […] One biggest problem 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.  […]


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