More on Millennials

June 8, 2018

The other evening, I attended a chapter meeting of SCIP. To tell the truth, I was there to plug our new book, Competitive intelligence Rescue: Getting It Right. We had a very fluid discussion among those attending, all very experienced in competitive intelligence.

One of the topics that emerged was Millennials. For the sake of privacy, I will not attribute specific comments to anyone. Besides, some of this contains my interpretation of the impact and meaning of these personal observations.

Here are some of the observations and my comments on them:

  • Millennials seem to believe that they can easily evaluate the veritable sea of data because they swim in it every day. That often means that they are not interested in a formal analysis of what that data means, i.e., intelligence, but rely on their interpretations, made on the fly. That, in turn, means that they are relatively self-centered in their assessments.
  • Millennials are cautious about or even suspicious of what they see and hear, being raised in a world surrounded by data that is very often unverified and sometimes inherently questionable. That data ranges from advertising to news sources. Oddly, they are not so cautioous about what they receive from personal sources, which has its own downside.
  • Millennials tend to gravitate to secondary data when making decisions, since they have the Internet at hand (literally), a magical source of secondary data. But they shy away from accessing primary research data, that is data developed from interviews of relative strangers. That is because they are reluctant to talk with others, particularly those who are not already a part of their own social or work environments. Many strongly prefer to use email or texts to telephone or face-to-face communications. That, of course, means the immediate loss of the context provided by listening for inflections, pauses, as well as watching body language.

All of this bodes poorly for the creation, use, and impact of CI in their day-to-day business activities.


What isn’t there

May 3, 2018

Recently, I read about a new factory in a trade publication. I will not name the magazine or company because it is not relevant.

The article touted the new technology and safety of the plant, indicating that it was to replace a factory owned by the same firm that had been in the area for about 50 years. The company’s representative quoted in the article praised the firm’s long ties to the area.

At the very end, the piece noted approximately as follows:

“The company plans to fill all of the positions at the plant with employees from the closed facility.”

Sounds nice, doesn’t it? The workers from the old plant will migrate to the new one, right? Think of reading this very closely. How? Try moving the modifier, “all of the”. It now reads:

“The company plans to fill the positions at the plant with all of the employees from the closed facility.”

But the actual quote does not mean this. Now you understand that the sentence actually means some employees at the closed plant will NOT be working in the new one. What was not said was telling you more about what is actually going on.

“Yesterday, upon the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there.” Hugo Mearns


Welcome to the [R]evolution

March 5, 2018

“Got a revolution, got to revolution.” Jefferson Airplane, Revolution (1969)

in our new book, Competitive Intelligence Rescue: Getting It Right (Praeger 2017), Carolyn Vella and I relate a case dealing with DIY CI (chapter 8). . Let me give you a couple of my thoughts on DIY CI.

Remember that the CI universe today has three basic research and analysis epicenters:

  1. CI professionals within an enterprise (including adjuncts such as researchers sited in libraries/information centers)
  2. Independent CI professionals who consult for/research for that and other enterprises
  3. Internal DIYers.

My own perception is that the first group is static or growing slowly, the second is stable or slightly declining, and that the third is growing steadily. Compared with 10 or 20 years ago, the existence of DIY CI marks an important evolution, if not revolution, in CI. Those growth trends, if they continue, may fundamentally change the CI “business”.

One plus from this is that it shows an increasing use of CI in enterprises, coupled with better access to end-users, particularly since the end-user in DIY CI is the person who generates the CI. It should also mean that the time between a perceiving a need for CI and its creation could fall.

However, there are also some minuses:

  • Those producing the CI will necessarily have narrower experiences in producing it, since they deal only with one client. That could result in a loss of professional perspective or even the failure to develop it.
  • The use of elicitation interviews will necessarily fall, thus diminishing use of a proven, valuable primary research resource.

What does this mean? One consequence could be that CI degenerate into several subspecialties where experience and developments are not easily transferable, such as IT CI, pharma CI, B2C CI, etc. Another consequence could be that CI could morph into a discipline that will not be able to look forward as easily as is it can look back and look at the present. Why? Because data on future actions and intentions lies with people to a significantly greater degree than in published sources. A third could be the separation of early warning processes from everyday CI, in part due to the lack of necessary broad perspectives among internal personnel.

What to do to keep these trends from “damaging” CI? (Sorry, I know that is a loaded question, but that is how I see it):

  • Institute regular awareness sessions and focused training both on producing CI and on using it. To avoid inbreeding, vary the sources for that training. That is use insiders, then external resources, and vary the outside providers over time.

Establish a stable of outside CI professionals pre-approved for future assignments. Rotation among them avoids having them buying into your firm’s blinders. Also, use one or more of them to regularly review your CI processes and work products to enrich your program with their broader perspectives. Interestingly, this is a flip on the CI audit that was used in the early days of CI before initiating a new CI program. Now the audit would be of the system as it operates and not of the potential need for CI and existing internal resources


More on Early Warning

February 21, 2018

Fortune magazine recently did a piece on Shell, one of the pioneers in developing and using early warning systems. At Shell, the outputs are called “scenarios”.

The article indicated that the Shell early warning team “concluded that global demand for oil might peak in as little as a decade – essentially tomorrow in an industry that plans in quarter-century increments.” The piece goes on to detail what Shell is doing: “making some big strategic bets.”

What is of interest is that the rest of the oil industry now knows what She’ll is and will be doing. That raises an interesting issue: by acting and revealing what actions Shell, a dominant force in the oil industry, will take, Shell is giving its competitors, suppliers, and customers insights into its own contributions to making the oil industry look different from today. And that is also changing the future Shell has projected. That means that, if Shell is right about its scenario, by acting and broadcasting those actions, it may, nay will, cause the future to be different from what it would be absent it’s actions.

Of course, this means that, in a decade, when Shell measures it’s accuracy in predicting the future, it may find it was wrong. But, this is because it did\could not factor in the direct and indirect consequences of its response to what was then still in the future as well as the responses of others in this business ecosystem to its responses, etc. Yet, the scenario could still be extremely invaluable, even if they cannot prove it.

Is your brain still on straight? Welcome to a brave new world.


Happy Kwanzaa and New Year

May you, your family, and friends all have a Happy Kwanzaa and a Very Happy New Year.


Merry Christmas

May you and your family and friends have a Very Merry Christmas.


Happy Chanukah

December 12, 2017

Have a very Blessed and Happy Chanukah.