Some good friends of mine sent me a link to an interesting blog post about Competitive Intelligence (CI). The post, written by Eric Garland, is a fascinating interpretation of not only the process of CI but the way CI is received by the decision makers. The author seems frustrated that the intelligence and analysis are not always received openly and without prejudice. In fact, this overlooks the basic truth that every organization and decision maker has its own set of cultural biases that will form their basis of interpretation.
It may be a common occurance for organizations and decision makers to prefer to hear intelligence that only reinforces their beliefs. This is the equivalent of (and just as useful as) a three year-old covering their ears and shouting lalalalalala. But making a decision and then only listening to intelligence that supports it does not translate into success. I must say that I haven’t experienced that in almost 20 years performing CI in both the corporate and law firm environments. Whether the intelligence was bad or good, it was something they knew they needed to hear. I like to think that their heightened instinct to survive outweighed their need to be right.
I feel that good CI just is. It is neither good or bad. Good CI’s purpose is not to stroke egos or present a fantasy world where all is sweetness and light. Its purpose is to obtain and analyze data and then present it in an easily understood format so that decisions are made with context, not in a vacuum. A CI Analyst inteprets that data using only the firm’s goals and culture as well as the unique qualifications of the recipient to paint a picture that says “Here’s where we are, there is where we want to be and these are the challenges we need to account for in our planning.” Doing less by omitting important data or telling them (both organizations and decision makers) what they want to hear reduces the value of CI significantly and will only set up the organization for failure. Organizations thrive or wither based on their willingness to deal with the world as it is rather than how they would prefer it to be. Presenting the real world so that organizations will be prepared to succeed is what CI is all about. How or if it’s used should not affect the Analyst’s work in the least.