It’s the Internet’s fault

October 10, 2014

There are several undercurrents emerging about competitive intelligence. I see them as including the feeling that competitive intelligence is (A) easy and/or (B) not really needed because it is obvious/lacking insights. Now to be fair, comments like this are usually coming from people who either (A) don’t actually do competitive intelligence or (B) don’t use competitive intelligence, but they are still out there.

Why such negativism?

One reason may be the Internet. Now, I know we blame everything from childhood obesity to dangerous driving on the Internet, but there may be some connection here. The Internet, expanding as it does every day, particularly by adding governmental records and personal data on rapidly increasing basis, has made it easier to develop vast amounts of raw data in a relatively short time. This has several important consequences.

One consequence is that the time we have to do our tasks, including CI, has not increased, but when the amount of data we receive has increased, we are spending, therefore, less time on analysis. That is a real problem when research indicates that, given the opportunity, more time should be spent on analysis and less on data gathering to produce actionable CI.

A second consequence is that, since people doing CI, either full-time or part-time, are gathering lots of data, they feel that it is necessary to do something with all that data. The result: the daily/weekly briefing/newsletter/report. In other words, an internal daily newspaper. As we can see the fate of daily newspapers in the Internet age has not been particularly promising, why should we think that the fate would be any better for CI activities that rely on these fast, and consequently analysis light/free, vehicles? It is always been my professional position that a full-time CI unit should use such vehicles sparingly; frankly, use them only as a way to drag the readers into using the CI team for more advanced, more valuable research.

The third consequence is that past CI efforts, in the minds of at least some end-users, have created the illusion that they’ve already collected “everything there is to know”. In other words by consuming the harvest of low hanging fruit, our CI consumers filled up on junk food. (Yes I know it’s a mixed metaphor.)

Whether you are consuming CI, providing your own CI, or just learning more about CI, be sensitive to this: the availability of too much raw data is impeding the provision of even minimally important amounts of analysis. In addition, quick may have already replaced good. (Remember those quaint signs that say “You can have any 2 of these 3: quick, good, or cheap.”)

When I was talking to a friend about this, someone who had been a teacher who was reflecting on the research he saw from college students, he made an observation which I will credit to him (without using his name at his request) – if research and the related analysis was likened to the preparation of a meal, then Internet-based research produces the equivalent of a TV dinner. To the naked eye, it looks like a meal, but for the consumer, it lacks the taste, nutrition, and visual appeal of a well-sourced, and well-prepared fine meal.


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