Are We in a Rut in Competitive Intelligence Innovation? #SCIP09 Post-conference

scip-09-chicagoKen Sawka of Outward Insights led this dialog for our friend, Bill Fiora at #SCIP09’s annual conference in Chicago last week.  Bill had a bike accident which kept him home in Boston. The dialog was a follow-up discussion from Bill’s post on our Competitive Intelligence Ning.

We listed many of the common competitive intelligence tools and techniques such as Porters 5 Forces, 4 Corners, War Games, Scenario Planning, SWOTs and competitor profiles.  There hasn’t been much innovation among competitive intelligence tools and techniques that anyone was willing to share.

The innovation that people shared was around process which involved social networks and more sophisticated monitoring and analysis tools. The cost of information acquisition is really inexpensive today even compared to 10 years ago, so companies can afford to text mine and use tools that provide visualization at a reasonable cost.

Another discussion was around trust: management listens to individuals they trust to get strategic intelligence, such as McKinsey.  This is the kind of relationship we in competitive intelligence need to develop with our management through dialog where we become valued. We need to deliver high quality products that address business needs. Ken told a story about a consultant who listened and advised one of the company’s executives on the Friday before the executive held his Monday monthly briefing. He didn’t charge for this time, but he did gain the executive’s trust. This relationship building supports the practice of cooperative intelligence which integrates leadership, connection and communication.

Ken shared another story where a Best Buy manager openly shared that each of its 983 stores used Web 2.0 technology such as a wiki to share day to day store operations, mystery shopping observations, sales results, and all kinds of good scoop, and how this became part of the company’s DNA. I wasn’t surprised since this is how the retail industry works: it’s more of an open book since you can freely walk into your competitor’s store and buy products and assess their service. Another attendee suggested that Best Buy might have implemented more advanced Web 2.0 processes since sharing their story. A participant in the pharmaceuticals was reluctant to share his company’s Web 2.0 practices since this industry is more secretive due to long lead times to get products approved by the FDA and out to the market place.

We concluded that industry norms can be a deterrent to sharing innovation.  However, as we build our human networks and develop trust, we often share our innovation with others, either one on one or among a smaller group. The Council on Competitive Analysis and Liam Fahey’s Knowledge Leadership Forum were sited as two examples of groups with trusting relationships where innovative competitive intelligence practices are shared.

One fear that some expressed is that we could be replaced by artificial intelligence as described in Jeff Hawkins and Sandra Blakeslee’s  book On Intelligence.

We concluded with a couple of questions:

1. How do we more effectively improve our value?
2. How do we quantify and communicate the benefits of competitive intelligence?

What do you think?  I’ll be blogging about #SCIP09 sessions this week.  Speaking of innovation, look for a summary of Competitive Intelligence Foundation’s book on Competitive Technical Intelligence (CTI) just released at SCIP 09.

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