CI and Decision-making

October 25, 2016

Last week, I reviewed AFIO’s Guide to the Study of Intelligence (2016). This week, I want to deal with some of the important lessons that this book has for CI DIYers and for CI professionals in general. These particular lessons deal with what intelligence, including CI, actually should provide to decision makers.

One chapter, “Intelligence Analysis: A Guide to its Study”[1] notes that

“Wise policymakers understand that they cannot know all of the possible outcomes of the decisions they face. Intelligence analysis serves to bound their uncertainty, to give policymakers a better sense of what might or might not happen, based on known conditions, the actors involved, and the decisions made….’{B]ounding uncertainty’ is not the same thing as telling someone what will happen.” (p. 291).

In one of the very first chapters, “Decision Advantage: The Why of Intelligence”, the two authors there note that[2]

“Intelligence provides more than decision advantage. Less evident – but absolutely critical and generally unrecognized – is that it can provide decision makers with decision confidence.” (p. 7, emphasis in the original).

For the CI community, these are important concepts to ponder, and then to communicate to your team and to your internal clients:

  • First, it is must be clear that competitive intelligence is not about predicting, with certainty, the future. Rather, it is about making predictions that make the decision-maker, the internal client, more comfortable in making necessary decisiona.
  • Second, at its best, CI is also designed to provide your firm with a decided decision advantage. So, determining that a competitor is likely to enter a new market that you are looking at can provide your firm with a decided decision advantage. How? Your firm can now make a decision about expansion with less uncertainty about the competitor’s own intentions towards that market.
  • Third, as for decision confidence, consider the power that your firm’s decision makers have coming from the fact that your competitor does not know that you have figured out its expansion plans.

So now, when thinking about CI, and, in particular when pitching it to your peers and to your internal customers, keep in mind all of these elements of CI – reducing decision uncertainty, providing decision advantage and delivering decision confidence.

[1] Mark Lowenthal, PhD., pp. 291-96.

[2] N. John MacGaffin III & Peter C. Oleson, M.A., pp. 13-20.


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