How to Incorporate an Information-Advantage Mindset into Competitive Intelligence Business Practices - dummies

How to Incorporate an Information-Advantage Mindset into Competitive Intelligence Business Practices

By James D. Underwood

Eighty percent of competitive intelligence initiatives fail somewhere between analysis and execution. In other words, 80 percent of the time, company leadership simply does not act on the intelligence it has at its disposal. Company size and age are usually the culprits; as an organization grows and ages, its ability to change deteriorates until it becomes a frozen bureaucracy.

The most successful companies and their leaders operate with an information-advantage mindset, exhibited by the following qualities:

  • Leaders with intuitive paranoia: Intuition is immediate knowledge not acquired or arrived at through learning or reasoning; you just know something is true. Paranoia is suspicion or distrust; you think that people are generally motivated by ill will toward you. A leader with intuitive paranoia has a sixth sense that enables her to immediately recognize potential threats.

  • Leaders with a momentary-advantage mentality: Your organization’s leadership needs to recognize that all opportunities are fleeting and that successful organizations are usually those that continually capitalize on momentary advantages. Leaders need to convey a sense of urgency about future opportunities that ripples through the organization.

  • Confidence in the information’s volume, time relevance, accuracy, quality, and value: To ensure company-wide support for CI, everyone needs to be confident in the information from which inferences are drawn, predictions are made, and strategic initiatives are formulated. You build confidence over time by producing positive results and communicating effectively.

  • Talented, skilled analysts: To perform effective CI, you need the most talented and skilled analysts available. These are the people who provide the insights on which key decisions are based. Top-notch analysts are often born and trained. They’re born curious, observant, and skeptical. They’re trained to dig up valuable information, use analytics, process and synthesize large volumes of information, think logically and critically, and trust their instincts.

  • Confidence in the analytical, intuitive, and synthesis capabilities of the analysts: Regardless of how talented and skilled the analysts are, if leadership lacks confidence in their abilities, those leaders won’t be receptive to the analysis or eager to plan and implement recommended changes. Confidence in the entire process is key to success.

  • Use of a systematic approach to ensure the accurate, meaningful interpretation of the information: One of the not-so-secret secrets to success is to put good procedures in place and hire competent personnel to carry out those procedures. The same is true in CI. Having a system in place ensures that all the required steps are done: information planning, gathering, analyzing, and executing. Failure at any stage is failure overall.

  • An emphasis on future-focused analysis: Data collection must be focused on information that enables analysts to draw inferences and make predictions. If the information leads to conclusions based solely on past or current market conditions, it’s useless in formulating future-focused strategic initiatives.

  • Use of skeptical questioning and antagonistic thinking in evaluating conclusions: Confidence doesn’t mean blind acceptance of conclusions. Analysts and leaders need to question not only the accuracy of the information but also the reasoning that led to any conclusions or recommendations for change. Ideas need to pass the test of frank and honest debate to ensure that they’re worthy of resources, planning, and action.

  • Development of reliable inferences and categorization of threats and possible outcomes: Skeptical questioning and antagonistic thinking should eventually evolve into drawing inferences and considering the endgame. Decision makers need to look at the possible ramifications of making a recommended change, including costs and potential outcomes. What will implementation entail, what are the likely results, and what are the potential downsides?

  • Management and executive sponsorship to ensure that critical intelligence is considered and, when appropriate, acted upon: Simply put, managers and executives need to step up to the plate and exude their confidence in all phases of CI, from information gathering and analysis through the execution of recommended changes. Without highly visible, top-level support for CI, implementation of changes is likely to fall short of the goals.

  • Reduction in resistance to change: Companies, especially larger, older companies, tend to be averse to change. Part of leadership’s job is to ensure that change occurs incrementally to reduce resistance.

When an organization is operating with the information-advantage mindset, it’s engaged in a never-ending cycle of gathering information and using it to gain first-mover advantages. This cycle has four stages that sort of align with the four stages of the CI process:

  1. Collective

    Gather comprehensive, relevant information about competitors, products, technologies, and trends before they impact the organization’s bottom line.

  2. Strategic

    Analyze the information and synthesize it into accurate, clear, and meaningful inferences and insights.

  3. Executive

    Communicate results and issue a call to action to influence key decision makers to act on critical intelligence.

  4. Preemptive

    Enable the firm to continually reap the rewards of first-mover advantage by leading the industry in innovation.

To determine whether your organization is properly geared for information advantage, ask whether it’s organized in such a way that it can perform CI effectively and act on critical intelligence.