Toxic Environments for CI

November 7, 2017

In the past I have commented[1] on the fact that competitive intelligence cannot thrive in contexts where there is imperfect competition or an outright monopoly situation.

Now consider this observation from a recent issue of Time:

“[T]he leaders of other emerging powers – not just Russia but also democracies like India and Turkey – are following China’s lead in building systems where government embraces commerce while tightening control over domestic politics, economic competition, and control of information.”[2]

So, to the above environments where CI cannot thrive (or perhaps even function), add those situations where government is not only involved in controlling commerce, even without the presence of oligopolies and monopolies, but where it is also controlling much of the data, the raw material from which CI is developed.

“Withholding information is the essence of tyranny. Control of the flow of information is the tool of the dictatorship.” author Bruce Coville.

[1] See It Is What It Is and  Why No CI?

[2] “Advantage China”, Time, November 13, 2017, p 42.

Forced Transparency

March 23, 2017

Time magazine recently published an interesting piece titled “The real costs of ‘forced transparency’”[1]. The focus of that was on the impact of WikiLeaks’ “disclosures” of US intelligence agencies’ ability to access data in private and government hands, the impact on national governments, and their possible reactions and responses.

I would add to that good analysis two more potential impacts:

  1. These same revelations, on the ease of generating “forced transparency”, may feed the slowly growing trend of the US Government to resist providing online access (and offline access as well) to Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) documents and data. The rationale offered, valid or not, would probably be along the lines that such access can only assist hacking efforts by opening ‘back doors’.
  2. These same revelations will, I suspect, also cause businesses providing many of the filings that those of us in competitive intelligence are interested in to (a) resist making certain filings citing a fear that their confidential data and documents can no longer be protected, and (b) press for changes to the FOIA (and other laws and regulations) to reduce such sensitive filings.

Of course, if the federal government moves in that direction, I expect that the states will follow – not necessarily quickly but inevitably.

[1] By Ian Bremmer, (accessed March 23, 2017).

Data from the Internet is NEVER the same as Competitive Intelligence

September 23, 2014

By now, it should be clear that having access to the Internet is not the answer to anything. It is akin to saying that having access to the Pennsylvania Turnpike means you can drive safely anywhere. The issue is where are you trying to get and how? Or, for the Internet, what data are you seeking to locate to then analyze?

A recent article on the current state of information overload in Time rightly observed “[F]or the most part, answers are good to know. You just have to ask the right questions.[1]

Now, I am not saying that doing some basic Internet research at the beginning of your own competitive intelligence project is not a good idea. Actually, it is a very good place to start. But it is only that, a starting point, not a destination. Use it to gain a general idea of your target(s), the competitive environment, and what people/organizations/resources with access/experience/knowledge could provide further data. But always apply your analysis and analytical tools to what you find, including a determination of how reliable the source for data is, as well as deciding how likely it is that the data you found there is correct (caution: these are 2 different issues).

But, in spite of all of our experience in CI, we still hear “Why do we need someone doing CI? Just have him/her look it up on the Internet!” Of, course, that is based on the erroneous inference that the Internet is a vast, indexed, and juried reference work, easy to use and highly reliable, rather than a vast trackless wilderness filled with information, misinformation, dated information, disinformation, and outright nonsense.

As this same article rightly put it, “[I]nformation is not knowledge or wisdom, and data can mislead.” Be careful out there.

[1] Michael Grunwald, “The Second Age of Reason”, Time, September 8-15, 2014, pp. 36-39. Emphasis added.