8 Great Competitive Intelligence Questions for Patterns

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8 great competitive intelligence questions for patterns

This article suggests 8 great competitive intelligence questions for patterns. We highlight how patterns can be blocked from a decision-makers view. Have you noticed that when something happens in the news or in your own business, we tend to try and work out the meaning? Mainly by looking into the past for comparisons? 

We naturally recognise patterns

We compare the present situation with historical events. And then look for patterns for it all to make sense. When we are born, we come preprogrammed to recognise patterns, and over time, we get much better at it. When there is a bad storm, it’s compared to the worst storm in history. A financial crash and the media claim it’s the 3rd worst crash since the great depression.

Patterns develop an excellent understanding of a situation. But you should take the time to look out for them. Otherwise, they will pass you by, and there will be no benefit from them. Until afterwards, of course. When you see the patterns or someone points them out when you are sorting things out. Or the press is looking for someone to blame. 

8 great competitive intelligence questions for patterns

Here are eight questions to use when trying to work out what’s going on. To determine what are the correct and erroneous patterns:

  1. Which information you know to be definitely true?
  2. What is still unclear?
  3. Have you isolated the stated and implied assumptions have you made in your thinking?
  4. What would a person with zero knowledge of the subject make of your assumptions?
  5. Are there any thoughts that are just based on your opinion?
  6. What biases could be playing their part in the situation? And your decision-making processes?
  7. Would the situation change if your beliefs and assumptions on what was going on were entirely or partially wrong?
  8. How can you test your hypotheses?

Connect the Dots

A medium-sized law firm’s marketing manager was sitting in her office. Her colleague walked in and told her their biggest competitor had financial problems. Later that day, she was at a business networking lunch. She overheard a competitor lawyer state there was great upheaval with the office. And people were in fear of their jobs. 

Over the coming weeks, other people within the firm had received disparate information. From clients, recruiters, and lawyer friends stating something was going on. Recruitment blocks and a strong sales drive that was not going to well. 

Unfortunately, there was no sharing of information within the organisation. There was no responsibility for collating the information and news. Thanks to office politics, some parts of the law firm were even hiding information from each other. It should have been seen, but no one joined the dots. What happened next was that a national law firm bought out the competitor firm. Now they have an aggressive competitor with an excellent reputation on its doorstep. Ready to take their clients away from them. 

Assumptions and untested hypothesis

In this example, assumptions were made, and hypotheses were untested. The opinion was wrong, and no one could join the dots* as the whole picture was not available. Suppose the managing partners were given the intelligence that the competitor was struggling. They could have had a decision to make. They could have attempted to buy the firm themselves. Or put off any potential buyer. And shored up their client relationships before the new threat would be trying to win them over. 

It’s important to ask these questions about your competitive environment. To determine whats going on. To ensure that nothing gets in the way of information sharing within your teams. 

Large companies or law firms are not alone in their inability to connect the dots. Even members of small groups hold information back from their team. Office politics down to not wanting someone to succeed at their expense. It’s about mistrust within an overly competitive environment. Right down to making another group look bad in front of the main board. Or simply to enhance their own social status. 

Prevent this situation

To prevent this sort of situation, it’s essential to understand the dynamics of the group. No barriers should be put in place to share information, and your teams need to express their views. And, most importantly, their knowledge. Encourage and incentivise teams to compare notes. Encourage informal networking and social meetings with each other. To reduce tribalism, swap team members around on secondment for a couple of months at a time. Get different teams to work together on specific projects. This article suggested 8 great competitive intelligence questions for patterns. And highlighted how patterns could be blocked from a decision-makers view.

*We are not fans of the term connecting the dots. If you would like to know why, please get in touch. 

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