6 Steps to Finding Future-Focused Competitive Intelligence

Part of the Competitive Intelligence For Dummies Cheat Sheet

When gathering competitive information, you may begin with some general data-mining on a topic and discover that what you're researching is far from a new idea. The information isn't especially helpful because it's historical information, and good competitive intelligence focuses on the future. Where do you go to find future-focused intelligence? Consider the following approach:

  1. Look for a topic-focused standards group.

    This strategy is particularly good when researching any new technology. Corporations, trade associations, and universities often contribute to formulating the standards for new technologies. You can often find leads to experts who can provide the valuable insights you're looking for.

  2. Research patent filings.

    You can find out about some emerging technologies by using the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website to find out about any work that may have been done in this area and the names of the major innovators.

  3. Gather names and research them online.

    As you conduct your research, gather the names of experts in the field. They're the people whose names pop up again and again on websites and in articles related to the topic of interest. These experts are on the cutting edge, so they're likely to be valuable sources of future-focused data.

    After your list of experts is complete,

    • Do an Internet search for each expert on your list to gather as much information as possible, including contact information, the company or university where they work, and any groups they belong to.

    • Search for these experts on social-media sites, especially sites such as LinkedIn that list professional résumés, articles, and expertise. These sites may offer information that you can't find by performing a generic Internet search.

  4. Search for white papers, articles in trade publications, and anything else that may reveal emerging information on your topic of interest and provide insight into each expert's knowledge of that topic.

    Keep in mind that white papers and articles may not appear in a general Internet search. You may need to perform your search on trade publication websites and other industry- or technology-specific sites.

  5. Interview the experts.

    Develop a list of questions you have based on your research and the goals of your inquiry, and then contact the experts and interview them. Don't rely solely on what's already in print.

  6. Pull it all together.

    Create a spreadsheet or table that includes all the key findings.

As you discover bits of information, ask Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How? Then perform additional research to answer those questions. Interrogating the data in this manner increases the breadth and depth of your knowledge and insight.

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