Data from the Internet is NEVER the same as Competitive Intelligence

September 23, 2014

By now, it should be clear that having access to the Internet is not the answer to anything. It is akin to saying that having access to the Pennsylvania Turnpike means you can drive safely anywhere. The issue is where are you trying to get and how? Or, for the Internet, what data are you seeking to locate to then analyze?

A recent article on the current state of information overload in Time rightly observed “[F]or the most part, answers are good to know. You just have to ask the right questions.[1]

Now, I am not saying that doing some basic Internet research at the beginning of your own competitive intelligence project is not a good idea. Actually, it is a very good place to start. But it is only that, a starting point, not a destination. Use it to gain a general idea of your target(s), the competitive environment, and what people/organizations/resources with access/experience/knowledge could provide further data. But always apply your analysis and analytical tools to what you find, including a determination of how reliable the source for data is, as well as deciding how likely it is that the data you found there is correct (caution: these are 2 different issues).

But, in spite of all of our experience in CI, we still hear “Why do we need someone doing CI? Just have him/her look it up on the Internet!” Of, course, that is based on the erroneous inference that the Internet is a vast, indexed, and juried reference work, easy to use and highly reliable, rather than a vast trackless wilderness filled with information, misinformation, dated information, disinformation, and outright nonsense.

As this same article rightly put it, “[I]nformation is not knowledge or wisdom, and data can mislead.” Be careful out there.

[1] Michael Grunwald, “The Second Age of Reason”, Time, September 8-15, 2014, pp. 36-39. Emphasis added.


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