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How to Build Your Competitive Intelligence Team

One of the great things about competitive intelligence is that everyone in the organization makes the team and plays an important role. In large organizations, however, certain team members form a core group to keep CI on track and ensure that all tasks required for effective CI are carried out.

This core team may even constitute a separate department that collaborates with other department heads and with the organization’s executive leaders to formulate and execute strategies.

Competitive intelligence team positions

Whether you form a separate CI department or recruit personnel to take on extra CI duties, you must fill these key positions on your CI team:

  • Sponsors: Look for people with the position power (that is, influence and authority stemming from their job titles) to help you overcome internal resistance to change. Make sure that they’re true believers in the power of CI and are committed to helping CI make a difference.

  • Planners: The planning committee should include decision makers and analysts. The analysts ask the decision makers about the intelligence they need to make better decisions, and the decision makers tell them. Planning consists of identifying the intelligence that’s needed, the most likely sources to provide it, and decision deadlines.

  • Gatherers: Recruit everyone in the organization, from the CEO down, to gather information so the analysts have a continuous stream of information that enables them to produce actionable intelligence. If you have a corporate library, the librarian can be a key player in collecting published and web-based information.

  • Analysts: Analysts are the people who convert raw information into insight and then try to convince decision makers to act on it. Professionals who follow your industry also serve as analysts; develop relationships with them, subscribe to their briefings or newsletters, and (when possible) develop personal relationships with them.

The five personalities of change to include on your competitive intelligence team

Although CI is a process and parts of it can be automated, it’s still primarily a people-driven process; that is, it requires people at every stage to carry it out. To achieve success, you need to have the right mix of people with different personalities. I call them the five personalities of change, based on categories developed by Everett M. Rogers (The Diffusion of Innovations, The Free Press):

  • Pathfinders are the first people to see change coming, yet they represent only about 2.5 percent of the general population.

  • Listeners are receptive to what the pathfinders say and have the organizational credibility to move the intelligence forward. Listeners represent 13.5 percent of the population.

  • Organizers are the detail-oriented, driven personalities who most often end up as the managers in the firm. They’re highly resistant to change, which explains why organizers, who often rise to the rank CEO, frequently lead organizations to failure. Organizers comprise about 34 percent of the population.

  • Followers hate pathfinders and resist change, but they’re tenacious. Assign them a task, and they’ll get it done, even in the face of adversity. Followers are great in roles such as sales, because they can tolerate high levels of rejection. They contribute another 34 percent or so of the general population.

  • Diehards fill about 16 percent of the seats and embody a suicidal resistance to change. Given the chance, they’d fire the pathfinders, but they’re very faithful to the organization.

To organize CI around the five personalities of change, you need to stack the deck with pathfinders and listeners, especially early in the process. Your CI team should be comprised of at least 50 percent pathfinders and 20 percent listeners.

You need to engage organizers in the process because they can help the team develop a reasonable course of action in the later stages, but pathfinders and listeners should outnumber them. (Even though the organizer personality is highly resistant to change, this type usually makes up the leadership team of the company. The unavoidable reality is, you have to get their buy-in as early as possible.)

Don’t invite the followers and diehards to be part of CI in the implementation phase. As you move forward and form successive pilot teams, keeping the followers and diehards out of the mix becomes progressively more difficult, but after you involve 25 percent of the organization, change occurs naturally.

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