“We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us”

July 30, 2015

This quote is from the old comic Pogo, in a strip first printed in 1970. It is a reflection on the then-state of the environmental movement. But it contains within it a wise message for competitive intelligence.

A new book, Your Strategy Needs a Strategy: How to choose and execute the right approach[1], also evokes this. There the authors suggest that some successful corporate strategy programs “deliberately manage which approach to strategy [of the 5 described by the authors] belongs in each subunit (be it a division, geography or function) and [then] run those approaches independently of one another.”[2]

Consider how these concepts might apply to the way you (or your team) conduct your own CI activities. For example –

  • If a competitor is a highly structured, centralized organization that operates on rigid plans and on a fixed schedule, shouldn’t you probably focus some of your CI work based on that schedule? So, if they usually launch in the first quarter, should your CI work look at the preceding 4th quarter as a stress period?
  • If a competitor is decentralized, and highly flexible, then won’t your efforts have to be more consistent over the year and wide-ranging, rather than based on your internal schedule? Shouldn’t it be based on their schedules and history?

In other words, should your CI operations’ schedules, deliverables, and focus be determined more by your targets than your own employer’s structure, schedule, and culture?

[1] Martin Reeves, Knut Haanæs, and Janmejaya Sinha, 2015. Harvard Business Review Press.

[2] p. 177. Emphasis added.


This is Your Brain on CI – Part 3 of 3

July 23, 2015

When you are doing competitive intelligence (CI) research and analysis, you are relying on your own intelligence to drive that research and analysis. But your brain, like any other part of your body, needs proper care and conditioning. What follows here and in the previous parts[1] are a few notes on what works for me – and has worked for others as well. Your suggestions and comments are, of course, very welcome.

In this third part, let me deal with conditioning your brain. Most people take better care of their cars, lawn mowers, and TVs than they do of their bodies. By that, I mean getting and keeping it in condition as when you train your body to support physical changes that you are facing, such as healing, building muscle, losing weight, or gaining new skills.

First of all, take good care of your body. Your brain depends on your body. In fact, your brain is the involuntary passenger in your body, as well as its governing body. Watch what you eat; rest – you probably do not get enough rest; exercise – in moderation; head off physical and medical issues – don’t wait until it is too late.

Second, add more relaxation into your schedule. By that, I mean things such as:

  • Step away from the computer – regularly.
  • Turn off the smart phone. We subconsciously react to hearing the cell phone acknowledge a message or call when we cannot take it. In other words, you do not ignore your smart phone unless it is completely off.
  • Set an “end time” to your work day. If you put yourself (or find yourself) on call well after working hours week after week, ask yourself why? Are you, your team, or your boss mishandling your time? Try and correct that.
  • Add something new to do where you cannot think of work, personal issues, or when you are scheduled for an oil change while you are doing it. This is why many people find things like fly-fishing or gardening relaxing. They are relaxing because they are forced to focus away from things they normally are forced to focus on.

Third, improve your current relaxation – make it better. How?:

  • Find ways to protect your current ways of relaxing from intrusion. Completely turn off that phone when you are jogging or exercising (see above).
  • Extend your relaxation by adding something a little different. For example, if you are a coin collector, spend a little time reading about precious metal metallurgy or the history of some regime or historical era that represents an interesting element in your collection. In other words, look at something familiar differently.

Think of your conditioning mind in terms of balancing visual versus arithmetic, factual versus artistic, scientific versus historic, etc.

[1] https://diy-ci.com/2015/07/07/this-is-your-brain-on-ci-part-1-of-3/ and https://diy-ci.com/2015/07/14/this-is-your-brain-on-ci-part-2-of-3/.

This is Your Brain on CI – Part 2 of 3

July 14, 2015

When you are doing competitive intelligence (CI), you are relying on your own intelligence to drive your research and analysis. But your brain, like any other part of your body, needs proper care and conditioning. What follows here and in the previous part and next part are a few notes on what works for me – and has worked for others as well. Your suggestions and comments are, of course, very welcome.

In this second part, let me deal with retraining your brain.

When I recently was taking physical therapy, one of the first exercises I had to do was to walk backwards on a treadmill. This was done to force me to think about how I was walking, which was a part of therapy. It is a very interesting idea because we don’t think about walking because we do it all of the time. The same is true with analysis.

CI analysts think about analysis because they do it all the time. So what we should be doing is trying to find a way to expand our analytical skills by doing things differently. For example, many times I have advocated sorting and reviewing the data first while you are collecting it, and again when you’re done with it, conducting your analysis[1]. How? By source, date, reliability, reverse chronology, etc. You select it. The idea is for you to start reading the raw data differently from the way that you collected, received, or structured it. When you do that, you are looking at it through “new eyes”.

This is particularly important when you are doing the problem definition, the research, and the analysis. You lack “other eyes”.

In terms of relaxing from doing analysis, we all, well almost all, play computer games at some point. Games? Sure, fantasy football, solitaire, Sudoku, mahjong, etc. You don’t play any? Maybe you should. Why?:

First, you need to relax. Playing a game for a minute or so forces you to separate yourself from the work you just finished. And that is never bad.

Second, computer games may actually help your brain relax. Really? Well, there is new research that shows that “[s]lotting the colored blocks of Tetris into their places is both satisfying and addicting. But it could also be healing.”[2] Give it a try.

Third, switch to doing things one at a time. What, (gasp) abandon multi-tasking, the sign of the modern hard worker? Yes. “You’ve likely heard that multitasking is problematic, but new studies show that it kills your performance and may even damage your brain.”[3]

Fourth, in line with the suggestions in the previous part, try different games, at different times or in different places.

It’s your brain, take good care of it.

[1] See, for example, Part 11.4 in John J. McGonagle and Carolyn M. Vella, Proactive Intelligence: The Successful Executive’s Guide to Intelligence, Springer, 2012.

[2] http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/playing-tetris-could-stop-traumatic-memories-becoming-flashbacks-180955862/?utm_source=smithsoniandaily&no-ist

[3] http://www.forbes.com/sites/travisbradberry/2014/10/08/multitasking-damages-your-brain-and-career-new-studies-suggest/

This is Your Brain on CI – Part 1 of 3


July 7, 2015

When you are doing competitive intelligence (CI), you are relying on your intelligence to drive your research and analysis. But your brain, like any other part of your body, needs proper care and conditioning. What follows here and in the next 2 parts are a few notes on what works for me – and for others as well. Your suggestions and comments are, of course, very welcome.

First, let me deal with relaxing your mind.

Look at the things that you do to relax, such as reading and games. I’m a great believer that you should continually change these things. By that, I mean changing the “subject matter” of the material you are reading (or the games that you are playing) for something that’s new and different.

With respect to reading, my practice is to change magazine subscriptions on a regular basis. So I stop reading the Economist when a subscription ends, instead of just renewing it, even though I really like it.  Then I start reading another magazine that it entirely different in terms of slant or subject. Think about it. For example, if you regularly read only Bloomberg BusinessWeek try switching to Smithsonian magazine. For The Atlantic switch out to National Review or Biblical Archaeology Review.

This holds true with books. Read mysteries? Try histories. Read archeology? Try psychology. The same is true with games. Do you do crossword puzzles? What about Sudoku? Anagrams?

You are still relaxing but doing it differently. And try doing it, that is the reading, the games, etc., in different places. So your relaxation is still real, but different.