February 5, 2013

 In the most recent issue of Bloomberg Businessweek, an article on honesty in the workplace[1] states

“Apple has been reported to spread false rumors to throw off the press and has fired employees for leaking even most quotidian of news items.”


Well this short quote, assuming it is correct, actually involves at least two separate concepts for those of us with an interest in competitive intelligence. The first is disinformation, and the second is the impact of a founder or other powerful personality on the direction of an organization.

With respect to disinformation, again if the article is correct, the spreading of these “false rumors” is a form of disinformation. In the case of a public company, disinformation is not the same as the release of non-public information. Why? Because it is not really information. How or even whether the US Securities and Exchange Commission would go after such activity is not clear. If intended to disrupt competitors, it is hard to say that it is principally aimed at manipulating stock prices.

But in any case, as I have explained, disinformation is an exceedingly corrosive activity.

The second concept is the impact that one person can make a large, even gigantic, organization. The stories about Apple founder Steve Jobs and his impact on the culture at Apple are numerous, and I suspect in some cases are even accurate. Among them are stories about his personal domination of the organization, as well as his intensely negative attitude towards competitors. Again, this short quote reflects that.

Certainly it is true that Jobs is no longer at Apple, but the people that he trained, hired, and his allegedly handpicked successor are still there. They would not be expected to stray far from his philosophy, at least not in the short period of time that has passed since his death.

This is not to say that the passing of a strong personality or founder does not eventually lead to changes in the organization. One only has to look at the case of Walmart, which under Sam Walton was proudly declaring that all of its products work made in the USA. Now, Walmart is reportedly the largest single importer of products from China.

So what does this mean? It means that, when you were doing your own CI, you have to understand your target, and its people, and you can’t accept everything out there as the absolute truth.

[1]Christopher Bonanos, “The Lies We Tell at Work”, Bloomberg Busienssweek, Feb. 4-10, 2013.

Follow Things to the End

July 19, 2012

According to a story in Bloomberg, Apple Computer recently got a mixed result in a lawsuit against Samsung. Apple did not get the declaration from a British judge that it sought – that Samsung copied the design of the iPad for a new product. However, the judge did throw Apple a (little) bone by declaring that one reason for his decision was that Samsung’s new tablets were unlikely to be confused with Apple’s iPad because they are “not as cool.”

Now, if you were tracking this case, you would think that you could stop until the (almost inevitable) appeal was filed and disposed of. Wrong.

Bloomberg reporter Kit Chellel reports that Apple made comments

after that ruling [which] unfairly implied that Samsung had copied [Apple’s] designs….

Following a hearing, the British judge then ordered Apple to

publish a notice on its U.K. website and in British newspapers alerting people to a ruling that Samsung Electronics Co. didn’t copy designs for the iPad.”


Lesson: When doing your own competitive intelligence research, do not assume that anything you found in the past, even recent past, has not changed. If any time has passed and the event is important to your analysis, check it, and recheck it.