Conclusions?

April 11, 2018

We all know, or should know, that the purpose of CI is to develop actionable intelligence. That means solid research, sound conclusions, supporting a specific action or decision.

One thing that we also all know is that the research that we do is rarely 100% perfect/confirmed/verified. We deal with estimates, approximations, and probabilities, whether it is “70% likelihood of happening”, “more likely than not”, or just “almost certainly”. But conclusions based on estimates are just that, based on estimates. Make sure that you, and other with whom you share your intelligence, never forget this.

Consider this:

“No probability, however seductive, can protect us from error; even if all parts of a problem seem to fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, one has to remember that the probable need not necessarily be the truth, and the truth is not always probable.”[1]

[1]Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism, Vintage Books, 1967 , p. 17.


Got Style?

March 23, 2018

Writing style is much overlooked (note the unfortunate, but common, use of the passive voice here) when we talk about business communication. However, what we write survives longer than our oral presentations do. A written document can always be referred to after the fact, while a presentation, unless recorded, relies on (imperfect) memory. So, your style of writing is important.

And, trust me, there are different styles of business writing. Here are a couple:

  • The entertaining – conversational, relaxed, and short, but tends to be lighter on content. It is an opening shot for discussion.
  • The direct – short sentences, clear language with no passive statements. It offers an issue and a conclusion. It reads like people (should) sound.
  • The professional – longer sentences, with more technical terms, presumably included for precision. No one, or almost no one, speaks like this – unless of course they are just reading it aloud, which is whole different issue. Then it becomes merely boring and unintelligible.
  • The overbearing – involves complex sentences, heavy use of acronyms. It is aimed at convincing the audience that the author is a real (and perhaps the only) expert on the topic. It is designed to persuade by being overwhelming, including the excessive use of footnotes and/or quotations.
  • The political/bureaucratic – filled with refences to rules, regulations, “context”, and past actions/decisions. Operates to conceal and deflect, by using the passive voice, rhetorical questions, and deep dives into often irrelevant sidebars. Rarely includes any acceptance of the possibility of (a) personal error, (b) institutional failure, or (c) cogent opposition to its conclusions.

Which are you (and which is this)?


Social Media and CI

March 15, 2018

Science magazine recently reported on Twitter and “fake news”. To summarize, new research seems to show that falsehoods spread faster and deeper on social media than did similar postings which were accurate. Ok, so this corroborates the old saying, “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it” (Jonathan Swift) So what?

For those of us in CI, this should be a warning. While social media can often be a rich source for bits of data that would often not be found elsewhere, that data is not, I repeat not, automatically verified, or worse self-verifying. It should be treated as any other non-verified individual piece of data, – that is, not given credibility just because it is  coming (seems to come) from a good source.

Let’s take a small social media example: LinkedIn.com, largely a business site.

It is an open secret that an individual who has been laid off, fired, or quit a job often leaves his/her LinkedIn profile unchanged, or may even “enhance” it a bit. Why? Because of a prevailing belief that it is easier to get a job, or at least be contacted by a recruiter cruising LinkedIn, if you are (or at least appear to be) still working. Given that, how much credibility should we give to a description of what that person does (did) when we building a competitive profile on that firm? Not much, I suggest.

Recommendation: when dealing with all social media, DIStrust it (or at least remain neutral) until it is verified – hopefully through using other than social media sources. Maybe that is a little strong, but keep it in mind when you find that social media discloses something “new”, “unexpected”, or ” surprising” about a competitor.

 


The Big Picture (7 of 7)

November 29, 2017

As I have noted, in our experience, there are usually 7 major issues involved in creating or adding a new competitive intelligence unit:

  • financial and personnel
  • guidelines
  • training
  • internal marketing
  • networking
  • customers and their needs, and
  • products and feedback.

In this blog, I have previously discussed the financial and personnel issues, guidelines , training, internal marketing, networking, as well as internal customers and their needs.

Several of the (masked) cases in Competitive Intelligence Rescue – Getting It Right, our newest book, deal with CI products and feedback as do several chapters in Bottom Line Competitive Intelligence. Here are a couple of the key high-level issues you should consider:

  • What products are you providing now? Who uses which products? Why don’t others use them?
  • Are you providing a newsletter? Is it really providing value to the readers or is it just a convenience for those readers?
  • Your product mix should change as your targets – and customers – change. And you should be changing your targets. They are not going to stay static just for your convenience.
  • Feedback from your customers is critical. Get it on a project by project basis, if possible, and, in any case, quarterly. And get it from ALL customers. If they are too busy to talk about your work, how much time do they have to absorb and use it?
  • Feedback should include reviewing what products to add as well as which ones to stop providing.

Also check out this past blog. among others: Answers and Questions.


The Big Picture (5 of 7)

October 17, 2017

In our experience, there are usually 7 major issues involved in creating or adding a new competitive intelligence unit:

  • financial and personnel
  • guidelines
  • training
  • internal marketing
  • networking
  • customers and their needs, and
  • products and feedback.

I have already discussed the financial and personnel issues, guidelines , training  and internal marketing.

One of the cases in Competitive Intelligence Rescue – Getting It Right, our new book, deals with internal networking and CI, as does the more technical chapter 6 in Proactive Intelligence: the Successful Executive’s Guide to Intelligence. Here are a couple of key high-level issues:

  • Internal networking is a way, like training, to continue to bring CI to everyone’s attention. That can be critical during the start-up period of a CI program when its impact, even existence, may not be evident.
  • Networking can multiply the effectiveness of a CI team or program. It creates and maintain a quick connection to people inside of the company who may have access to critical bits of data. With networks in place, they may feel that there is someone that they can “alert”.
  • Members of the sales team can be valuable members of your network. However, it is not unusual for managers to object to this, on the basis that it “wastes” the time of the sales personnel. Do not try and make the sales force into a CI data collecting force. Rather, provide members with some help so that they feel freer to reciprocate.

Also check out  some of my past blogs, including Tag – You’re It! and 10 Commandments for DIYers.


The Big Picture (4 of 7)

Our newest book, Competitive Intelligence Rescue – Getting It Right, has several cases that highlight issues in creating or adding a new competitive intelligence unit. In our experience, there are usually 7 major elements involved in either process:

  • financial and personnel
  • guidelines
  • training
  • internal marketing
  • networking
  • customers and their needs, and
  • products and feedback.

To help you see the big picture, I will deal briefly with each issue over time. I have already discussed the financial and personnel issues, guidelines and training. One of the cases in Competitive Intelligence Rescue – Getting It Right highlights issues in marketing CI to employees and officers. Here are a couple of high-level issues:

  • Internal marketing of CI is critical to the development of a top CI program that supports critical decisions and has, and maintains, the support of the entire organization. Support means that the CI program has both needed time and funding on a continuing basis.
  • This requires that management provide access to all employees, particularly to senior management and the sales force, as a part of its, hopefully, enthusiastic support.
  • Marketing involves educating all employees not just internal customers, about CI and its role in decision-making at the organization. This will foster the development of cooperation from customer-facing employees, potentially a great source off raw data, and a continuing by-in by management. It also can help to block management requests that, unknowingly, might force CI data collectors to cross ethical or even legal lines.
  • Internal marketing also makes it easier to develop internal networks, something I will cover later. It encourages the generation of important bits of data from employees who “never knew that anyone was interested in that”.
  • Finally, it serves to alert all employees and officers to the existence of CI efforts being used against them, making defensive efforts easier to start and maintain.

For thoughts on related issues, check out my past blogs, including these two:

DIY and Silos

Tag – You’re It!


The Big Picture (3 of 7)

September 25, 2017

Our newest book, Competitive Intelligence Rescue – Getting It Right, has several cases that highlight issues in creating or adding a new competitive intelligence unit. In our experience, there are usually 7 major elements involved in that process:

  • financial and personnel
  • guidelines
  • training
  • internal marketing
  • networking
  • customers and their needs, and
  • products and feedback.

I will deal briefly with each issue over time. I have already discussed the financial and personnel issues as well as guidelines.

Here are my comments (brief) on some major training issues:

  • Every member of the CI team as well as ambitious DIYers, should get some sort of CI training at least once a year.  That can be almost anything: attending a local association’s chapter meeting, a national conference, or a commercial workshop, so long as CI is the main topic of the session(s) you attend.
  • Communication skills deserve training – internal or external. Your analysis is not worth much if you cannot communicate its importance and significance to others.
  • Regular training, say every three years, on legal and ethical issues is a must. If you can get someone from your legal team to participate. Also, the CI team should be conducting training on these issues for its internal customers. Aware customers make it easier to stay on the straight and narrow.
  • Over time, additional training on various analytical techniques will not only upgrade your personal skill set, but it will help you in determining your internal customers’ needs, in selecting the right targets, and in selecting and managing your Ci products and outputs. Aim at doing this every couple of years.
  • General management issues cannot be overlooked. They include things like succession planning, assessing employee performance, creating and managing networks, and well as on managing your internal clients’ expectations. Hopefully your firm already offers these to you and your peers. Take them.

This is not the first time I have written on these issues: Carolyn Vella and dealt with them in The Manager’s Guide to Competitive Intelligence. Also, please check out my past blogs under the Category “Education and Training’, and look at these three, for more on this:

CI Skills and Education

Lessons for CI from Games

How can you learn something new?