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Competitive Intelligence: Use Expert Panels to Predict the Future

Although predicting the future seems nearly impossible, competitive intelligence can tackle the challenge with a host of tools, including an expert panel — a group of people in the know who can help identify future opportunities, threats, emerging technologies, and so on.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of working with expert panels involves drawing conclusions when the experts disagree. Sometimes bias plays a role. In other instances, some experts are simply more or less knowledgeable about a specific topic than others on the panel are.

To draw fairly reliable conclusions from an expert panel regarding the future, try the following approach:

  1. Develop a questionnaire with multiple-choice questions you want the experts to answer.

    For the multiple choices, develop a five-point Likert scale; for example:

    A) Strongly disagree

    B) Disagree

    C) Undecided

    D) Agree

    E) Strongly agree

  2. Administer the questionnaire.

    Administering the questionnaire via a face-to-face or Skype interview is better than simply mailing or emailing the questionnaire so you can pick up on nonverbal communication as people give their answers.

    Always pay experts their hourly rate and inform them that their comments are confidential and will never be made available to outside sources.

  3. Ask open-ended follow-up questions to determine why each expert answered as he did.

    Follow-up questions give you a real understanding of the expert’s knowledge (or lack thereof) and let the experts demonstrate just how much they really know about the subject. Additionally, good follow-up questions often extract a lot of extra information and very valuable information about the topic you’re studying.

  4. Toss out any outlier questionnaires that strike you as inaccurate.

    Outliers are questionnaires with responses that are consistently far out of sync with answers from the group as a whole. For example, if most of the experts are pretty close in agreement but two or three have vastly different opinions, you may want to toss out their questionnaires. Keep in mind, however, that if a particularly knowledgeable expert on your panel gives outlier answers, those answers may be the most accurate.

  5. Tally the experts’ responses and draw your own conclusions.

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