The competitive intelligence disconnect

March 3, 2015

From time to time I refer to the competitive intelligence disconnect or the fundamental disconnect – the problem which arises when those producing competitive intelligence assessments are not the same as those making decisions based on them. To put it simply, they do not have to pay attention to what the CI shows.

Now, one could argue that this is something that probably occurs rarely. I am not so sure about that.

I just read two articles that seem to me to indicate that may not be the situation – rather it may be that the largest corporations may be truly averse to new intelligence which challenges their established beliefs or plans.

The first article dealt with Willy Heyman, Vice Chairman and chief investment officer of Travelers[1]. Discussing when he looks at the market for guidance for managing “everything from hedge funds to insurance assets”, he is quoted as saying that his key to prospering is to stick to a simple rule:

“Ninety-nine percent of the time the proper reaction to many new piece of information is just to file it away mentally and do just what you were doing before”. Interesting.

In a profile article about efforts to revitalize Target[2], the retail giant, the author focused on the new CEO. The author first dealt with the CEO’s efforts to evaluate the company’s stores by, gasp, actually visiting them incognito and even talking with customers. This is hardly surprising move, and in fact strikes me as sound management. However the article notes that this approach was in sharp contrast to the previous way Target had always operated:

“Store visits, ostensibly intended as intelligence-gathering missions, were meticulously planned affairs only slightly less formal, say, than a presidential visit. Every relevant national manager and local functionary would be notified in advance, each step choreographed, the ‘regular shoppers’ handpicked and vetted.”

Talk about using a Potemkin village approach versus actually gathering intelligence.

So now I wonder whether the competitive intelligence disconnect in large organizations is not so much an occasional problem as something that afflicts many members of senior management, who are evidently seeking to avoid confusion by avoiding new, particularly distressing, intelligence.

[1] Nathan Vardi, “Munificent Returns”, Forbes, March 2, 2015, p. 56.

[2] Phil Wahba, “Back on Target”, Fortune, Issue 3.1.15, p. 86.


2 Comments on “The competitive intelligence disconnect”

  1. […] So now I wonder whether the competitive intelligence disconnect in large organizations is not so much an occasional problem as something that afflicts many members of senior management, who are evidently seeking to avoid confusion by avoiding new, particularly distressing, intelligence..  […]


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