Assess the Reliability of Your Research Network

No Matter what form of research you are doing, when you talk to people, you need to assess the reliability of their information or insight. I have a rule of thumb when locating the best people to talk to. How motivated are they to know the information I am seeking? Generally those who are the most motivated, are the most reliable sources if they will share with you, and if they speak the truth. Another good connection is the person who might know what you’re looking for, but not realize the value of the data so will readily share.

In America, many people try to be helpful when you call them. It’s our culture. However, in their desire to be helpful, people can unintentionally misinform you. If you have done your secondary research before making your calls, you’ll often have learned enough that you’ll have a sense when the information doesn’t sound quite right. That’s where you need to trust your intuition. This is the art and science of primary research collection.

When setting up a competitive intelligence process, you locate diverse and reliable sources both within your company and externally. These are people who you will connect with periodically, and in the spirit of cooperative intelligence, you share information and connections that they value. Since we all seem to do more in less time, it’s important to pinpoint the right people to connect with, to stay connected with, and realize when the connection is no longer working. In that vein I developed some questions to ask about people. Positive answers and strong responsiveness help me stay focused on those who will be most helpful.

  • How responsive is each person when you reach out in meetings, by phone or e-mail?
  • Does s/he always get back to you within a few hours, a couple of days, a week or are they unpredictable?
  • When s/he gets back to you, does s/he share useful information or knowledge?
  • What is the quality of this person’s knowledge sharing?  Is it commonly known news, less known news, and do they offer any insight?
  • Do you have a good enough working relationship with this person so as to know their biases?
  • Does this individual connect you with people who are valuable to you, or are their connections not so useful?
  • How often do you interact with this person?
  • Is this person highly regarded by another person you know?  Who and why?  If not, how did you get linked to this person?

I am writing this blog to help my SCIP friend, Paul Nimalan. He is looking for some ideas about how people assess the validity of human source contacts when they do CI for his thesis at the Institute for Intelligence Studies at Mercyhurst College. He posed this question on our CI Ning and Trip Krant shared some of his ideas from the military intelligence world.

Do you have any best practices to share? Paul was thinking about creating a evaluating grid like Dax Norman developed to assess the credibility of web sites.

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