Chess and competitive intelligence (part 2)Posted: September 12, 2014
September 12, 2014
As I noted in the first post on this topic, the late Arthur C. Clarke, scientist and science fiction author, came up with a fictional device that basically eliminated privacy:
“Before [that], business was a closed game. Nobody knew my cards….And that gave me a lot of leverage for bluff, counterbluff…I could minimize my weaknesses, advertise my strengths, surprise the competition with a new strategy, whatever. But now the rules have changed. Now the game is more like chess….Now – for a price – any shareholder or competitor, or regulator come to that, can check up on any aspect of my operation….”
What does it mean that business, with CI, is now a lot more like chess? Let’s look at more comments of great chess players for guidance. Hint: just insert the work “business” for “chess” and “competition” for “game” in the following. 
Analysis is the heart of competitive intelligence (CI). As a matter fact, if you have to divide your time between data collection and analysis, research and experience both show that you are better off putting more time into the analysis that into the data collection. As we noted in the past,
“CI professionals spend excessive effort, in terms of both time and money, on data collection. Over a decade of experience clearly indicates that the optimal distribution of effort (whether measured in terms of time, dollars, or some combination) among the four stages of the CI cycle is approximately as follows:
“It is a well-known fact that almost all the outstanding chess-players have been first-class analysts.” (Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik, Grand Master and World Chess Champion)
And your analysis must be accurate and honest. By that, I mean that you cannot be impacted by preconceptions, also known as blind spots, also known as blinders. These preconceptions may be yours, or they may be a part of your business’culture. In every case, you have to first analyze your own position accurately in order to be able to analyze your competitors’ positions accurately.
“Drawing general conclusions about your main weaknesses can provide a great stimulus to further growth.” (Alexander Alexandrovich Kotov, Grandmaster)
Making sure your CI is actionable
One of the key precepts underlying CI is that all CI must be actionable. That is, you, or whomever you give CI to, is able to take an action which could not be taken before or make a decision which could not be made before. Providing CI which does not support some action is a waste of time, money, and effort. That is the difference between “good to know” and “need to know”.
“It is not a move, even the best move, that you must seek, but a realizable plan.” (Eugene Alexandrovich Znosko-Borovsky, Chess Master)
 Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, The Light of Other Days. Thor Books. New York: 2000. p. 144.
 John J. McGonagle and Carolyn M. Vella, The Manager’s Guide to Competitive Intelligence, Praeger, Westport, CT, 2003, p. 10.
 See John J. McGonagle and Carolyn M. Vella, The Internet Age of Competitive Intelligence, Praeger, Westport, CT. 1999, pp. 26-31 for more detail on the sources for these estimates.