Competitive intelligence analysis thinking needs to be diverse and rich
This article suggests that competitive intelligence analysis thinking needs to be diverse and rich. It provides our thoughts on why thinking can be at a premium and what an analyst needs to do to help independent thought. We have tried to be provoking, and you don’t have to agree with us.
Watch interesting things
An Intelligence Analysis in the corporate world should read and watch interesting things. Not necessarily within their core subject matter. Watching interesting things hopefully will create alternative input. And eventually, lead to more interesting thinking. For a discipline seeking fresh thinking, Competitive intelligence can be very inward-looking. Good analysts must be aware of this. And the drive for just finding a platform to solve all your intelligence needs and problems will fail you. It’s also misguided to just use experts who have worked in the same industry for years.
Love is blind and so is experience
Yes, they will know where to look to find the information they need to generate intelligence. But as humans, we love habits and seek the easy route. Experiences and biases can also blind them. You may have a different view, which is, of course, more than acceptable. A Competitive Intelligence analyst with years of industry experience is convincing. They may be excellent at what they do. They will sound knowledgeable about the sector they know so well. But where is the fresh new thinking? Where are the left-field ideas? How do their biases affect how they think? Companies sometimes need to break out of the experience box and see there’s a big world out there.
We remember conversations with a tech competitive intelligence analyst at a trade show. He certainly knew his stuff. And to be fair, there was nothing about the subject he didn’t know. We had a two-hour meeting with him where he told us how much he knew. There was nothing we could tell him. Just as well, as he failed (yes, failed) to ask a single question to us.
Learning new things from a different angle. Innocent “silly” questions, knowing when to keep your mouth shut and finding new sources will produce fresh thinking. New ways of doing things. And that’s the whole purpose of competitive intelligence in the first place. This is why competitive intelligence trade craft is far more important than industry knowledge.
A recent example of this sort of thinking involved 18 months of discussions. A US-based events company wanted reasonably complex competitive intelligence. They were concerned about our lack of event experience. But delighted with everything else. After 7 or 8 zoom calls, we terminated discussions. They were so risk-averse. They wanted a competitive intelligence company from the events industry. We understand they still have problems, and they have yet to appoint a supplier. Very frustrating and a waste of time for all. Especially as we could do the job.
Beat a different track
It’s essential not to be self-referential in how we do things. The work, thinking, communication recruiting. Intelligence analysts shouldn’t just follow the same professionals. Do the same training courses and regurgitate the same stuff and knowledge. Analysts need to look for different and diverse voices. Seek alternative attitudes, perspectives and ways of thinking. While waiting for creativity and insightful thought to come to fruition, reading and watching something different could help. Analysts reading material and watch lists should fall into three categories. Without becoming overly pretentious, these three categories are random, perceptive and alternative.
Read a book, watch a documentary and listen to a podcast about an entirely random subject. A new area that you know very little or nothing about. Personally, I don’t particularly appreciate listening to podcasts about a subject I know well (apart from Football and SCIPs). I can see through the thin veneer of bull and self-flagellation. The exaggeration, back-slapping and ego rubbing. Meaning, for me, very little thought is created during and after the exercise.
Intelligence Analysts need to keep an eye on the measured and macro view of the world. That’s the whole world, not just from the perspective of where they live. When selecting sources, you need to judge their objectivity. And whether your own biases surround the desired detachment. The ability to see two sides of a story is an essential skill of an analyst.
Intelligence analysts need to let themselves go in their reading and watch. In small doses, look at your Wired’s and other alternative publications of this world. Look for sources asking and answering many of the same questions that we are. Perhaps with a fresh and provocative way and view. Analysts should be careful to rely on resources that can be counterproductive. Traditional market research, because it’s not reflecting how things are working now. And frankly, many analysts are really “just” providing data science. With a bit of market research thrown in as filler.
It’s about good questions
We all have the same data to work with. Large companies with bigger budgets can access it quicker. They are signed up to more expensive databases and the like. But all the work is useless unless you are asking the right questions in the first place. Then, later on, when it comes to asking the why questions, there are many sources to help with your answers. Not just the tried and tested sources? Why not look for different perspectives by reading academic journals? Take in cultural discussions, literature, comedy, interesting quotes and much more. The problems you are trying to solve and the questions are likely not new. Some assume that this is the case.
When exploring problems and creating questions, we find conversations over coffee beneficial. With someone smarter than me, and I’m lucky as there are many out there. Once defining the questions to solve the problem, I like to lock myself away. And try and articulate the strategy around creating a successful outcome. I write everything down the old fashioned way. Pen and paper and write away until all the gaps in our thinking are exposed.
Competitive Intelligence Analysis Thinking Needs to be Diverse and Rich
This article suggested that competitive intelligence analysis thinking needs to be diverse and rich. It offered our thoughts on why thinking can be at a premium and what an analyst needs to do. We have tried to be provoking, and you don’t have to agree with us.
Why do you disagree with what we wrote?
Art by instagram.com/wilhazec/