The Present of Presence & Listening

Yesterday our excellent homilist ended with a story I had read on the Internet several times, yet it hit me differently due to the recent loss of my Dad. An old man had recently lost his wife, and was so heartbroken that he just couldn’t do anything. A neighbor’s little girl saw how sad he was, just sitting on the porch staring out into space, and ran to him and sat in his lap. The old man was delighted and told the little girl’s family that she had brought him back the will to live. They asked: “What did she say?” And he replied, “Nothing. She just sat on my lap.”

This story reminded me of the hours I had spent with my Dad in those last weeks, quietly sitting with him, particularly late at night when he couldn’t sleep even though he wanted to. Sleep deprivation particularly haunted him in the hospital with all the disturbances, noises and lights. I like to think he just didn’t want me to go home. After he came home I continued to sit with him when it was my turn, quietly watching TV, and sometimes while he slept during the day or the night. I stayed up with him the last night he was on planet earth, and I think Dad took great comfort that I was there with him, quietly sitting close by and periodically touching him.

I think this phenomenon of being quiet is also very valuable in business as part of cooperative communication, one of the arms of cooperative intelligence. Sometimes, people just need us to listen to them, and not offer any advice. It is a difficult thing to do: to just listen and listen and perhaps at the end of their ranting just wish them good luck. Often just allowing the other person to talk and talk allows them to release some steam, but also can be used more constructively. If you stay quiet, the other person may share some great ideas to improve your business practices and unleash their creativity. This practice also builds incredible trust and connection between two people since you think enough of the other person to stay quiet and listen.

In my fields of research and competitive intelligence, knowing when to be silent is a great gift, since there aren’t enough listening ears, especially these days with all the downsizing in America. When I call people, even cold calls, I will initiate the conversation, but then I will be silent and give the other person a chance to share what they know. Many of them are so grateful that someone cares enough to ask their opinion, even a total stranger, that a number of them have invited me to call them back any time. I have made them feel good about themselves and warmed up their life just a little bit by asking and caring.

It takes time, life experience and a certain amount of intuition to know when it’s right to just sit back, be quiet and listen. I am still learning and wonder what your experience has been with being quiet and listening.

Jeffrey Immelt’s Ideas on Renewing America’s Competitiveness

As we approach this Independence Day in America, my cooperative spirit pushes me to share Jeffrey Immelt’s ideas about how to renew America. Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE is one of America’s stewards of leadership and innovation and I highly recommend that you view his talk given in late June 09 at the Detroit Economic Club.

America has a myriad of economic problems, not the least of which is it has moved from a technology-driven manufacturing economy to one that is services oriented. We are known as a country where CEOs are viewed as short-term speculators, which has been re-enforced by our “leadership” in the financial global meltdown. There is something seriously wrong when “a mortgage broker is pulling down $5 million a year while a Ph.D. chemist is earning $100,000.”

Jeff thinks the US needs to create an industrial renewal as follows:

1. Invest in new technology

2. Win where it counts in Clean Energy and Affordable Healthcare

3. Become a country that’s good at manufacturing and exports

4. Embrace public/private partnerships

5. Encourage leaders that are also good citizens

During this recession, GE has not reduced its R&D expenditures, which are pegged at 6%, while the US average is only 2% of sales. In 2008, GE exported $19 billion and plans to increase exports each year. GE is partnering with local government to fix the US educational system by investing at inner city schools to improve math and science since only 4% in the US study engineering, which often produces innovators.

GE has two great initiatives to stimulate innovative product development: “eco-imagination” and “health-imagination”. Eco-imagination focuses on alternative, clean energy development and renewable energy products as well as making better use of traditional energy sources. One initiative is a GE + Duke energy coal degasification plant project. America is like the Saudi Arabia of coal supply! Through innovations in health research, GE will launch hundreds of new products in the next few years to reduce the cost of healthcare, particularly in areas like infant care and mammography.

GE invests $1B per year in training. One way this has paid off is that their educated locomotive teams reduced the time it takes to manufacture a locomotive from 100 days to 20. Jeff’s talk is full of these examples of “can do”, which I think is missing from America’s fabric in these tough times.

GE practices what it preaches: it changes with the global demand for its products. Over 50% of what GE produces today didn’t exist 10 years ago. GE will introduce more new products during this recession than any time in its history.

Big business needs to fund small businesses to invent and in the supply chain to compete globally. He states that as “Business leaders we are responsible for the competitiveness of our own country.” This comes from a free marketer and Republican. I wish more of our country’s leadership felt this way. The US is at a competitive disadvantage globally since the private and public sectors are often at odds and do not cooperate like they do in most other countries in the world! The US needs to welcome government as a catalyst for leadership and change. Look at all the creativity and innovation that came from NIH and NASA over the years. The government can be creative and foster cooperation!

I’ll conclude by sharing that Jeff is practicing what he preaches: GE is investing $100 million to develop a manufacturing lab near Visteon Center in the Detroit metro. This will provide 1200 professional jobs to start. Jobs will focus in three areas of innovation: advanced manufacturing technology including applications in aviation and energy products; software applications such as the smart grid; and a training program for information technology. GE is working with the public sector in Detroit and drawing talent from MI universities, in addition to the local work force.

I hope more of America’s leadership adopts Jeff Immelt’s attitudes and practices so America can once again feel proud. US competitiveness will only improve as we become a more self confident society. America’s consumer spending is not going to pull us out of this recession: this alone is not sustainable! America’s business investment in technology, innovation and value-added manufacturing will.

Creative Librarians in Competitive Intelligence: SLA 2009

I taught two Click University competitive intelligence certificate programs at SLA 2009: intermediate and management CI analytical tools and techniques. My students had a cooperative spirit, great curiosity and a strong desire to learn. This is my favorite kind of student.

One student group devised a creative use of the Radar Screen 360 degree analytical tool. I learned about this tool through Adrian Slywotsky’s Value Migration book, where competitors are placed around a dart board in accordance with how competitive they are relative to your company. Your company is the bull’s eye and your key competitors are placed in the inner rings of the dartboard, where as outliers or potential competitors might be placed towards the outer rings and even outside the entire dartboard.

We were analyzing an executive in the hotel industry, in an attempt to predict what his next move might be. Would he buy the hotel next door or not? The case told us his life story, including his personality all the way from his childhood to the present as a middle aged man. We were provided with his history of buying and managing hotels, including his keen ability as a financial manager, his tendency to micromanage, his habit of reinvesting earnings back into the business, and his drive to grow and take risk in the entrepreneurial spirit.  The first step this team took was to use the Radar Screen to show us how this executive perceived his hotel business relative to the competition.


They broke the radar screen into quadrants which depicted customer service, attention to detail, financial stability, and risk taker/entrepreneur. What a brilliant use of the Radar Screen as a psychological tool! They concluded he was an INTJ on the Myers Brigg Scale. He was extremely well organized, independent and a classic entrepreneur who experienced growth through risk taking, by extending himself to buy or rebuild hotels. From this analysis we could see that he had a robust ego and that he thought he did everything well, if not better than the competition. The hotel group’s financial results underscored that he was a savvy, smart businessman.

From this analysis we could study the executive’s decision-making patterns to date, and figure that as an entrepreneur with no hobbies, he was likely to continue his habit of extending himself financially and buying the hotel next door. He didn’t know how to operate any other way: there was nothing that seemed to provide enough impetus in his life to change this behavior.

This team was right: the executive did buy the hotel next door even though it meant extending his and his wife’s work life by several more years. He didn’t know how to stop this cycle, and perhaps wasn’t ready to make changes towards retirement at age 49, while his wife had quit her law practice in a step towards retirement.

Visualize Your Competitors on a Radar Screen Competitor Map, a Great Competitive Intelligence Tool

The Radar Screen competitor map is one of my favorite competitive intelligence tools.  It is totally visual, and fits on one page for easy digestion. It can be used both strategically and tactically, and is a rich communication tool. I first read about it in Adrian Slywotzky’s Value Migration: How to Think Several Moves Ahead of the Competition  in the 1990s.

It’s a great way to visualize how competitors are positioned relative to your company and each other. The Retail Radar Screen example below shows competitors relative to Macy’s, the large retail store which offers a broad spectrum of products including clothing, housewares, bed & bath, jewelry, shoes, cosmetics, fine china, handbags, and various accessories. It could be argued that Sears and JC Penney are Macy’s most direct competitors, as they offer a broad spectrum of similar products in their stores. Thus they are placed in the middle of the radar screen to show their relative position as a more direct competitor to Macy’s. Wal-mart and Target might fit in the next tier as they both sell clothing and housewares, but also sell food and sporting goods where they don’t compete. Outliers include Costco and Sam’s Club as they compete across some products such as clothing and housewares, but don’t offer the depth in either area, and sell food where Macy’s scarcely competes, and offer other products that Macy’s doesn’t such as computers and automotive.


Ideally you would have a cross-functional team create a Radar Screen competitor snapshot. There is rich discussion about where and why competitors should be placed which is extremely valuable to capture.  Some companies use the Radar Screen as the home page for their company’s competitive intelligence Intranet. They will re-position the competitors based on the news, and visually depict changes with a different color, for example. If you would click on each competitor, there would be the relevant news and a competitor profile explaining its positioning.

Be creative: the uses for the Radar Screen competitor map are as rich as your imagination. The screen can be divided into 4 quadrants which might depict competitors by 4 separate business units, 4 different geographies, and on a tactical level 4 different reasons why customers buy.

I have used the Radar Screen with companies who claim they have 20 major competitors in one business unit. This exercise achieves more focus, and we will often narrow that list to 6 – 8 competitors after some rigorous discussion.

How do you use Radar Screen competitor maps?  I would love to hear from you.

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Capture Competitive Intelligence from Sales: Switching Cost Analysis

How do you extract precious competitor and customer tidbits from Sales? The first rule with Sales is “You must give what they need in order to get.” Giving is one of the key principles of cooperative intelligence. It’s also helpful if you put yourself in Sales’ shoes. I was lucky in that I sold for a few years before I started our competitive intelligence initiative at Bell Atlantic, now part of Verizon. Thus I had credibility since I knew the challenges that Sales faced first-hand.

However, you who have no sales experience, can gain insight by accompanying Sales on customer calls. Other ways to connect with Sales include listening in on their challenges through Sales conference calls, attending Sales rallies, and perhaps getting on the agenda to speak at such a rally. It’s great if you can connect with Sales just as they’re hired by conducting some competitive intelligence training as part of Sales orientation. That way you can meet Sales people who may have come from the competition.

You gain sales intelligence and learn why customers do or don’t buy through win loss analysis. However, even though you include Sales in win loss, they may feel threatened when someone else calls their customer, treading on their precious relationship.


One tool that been very popular with Sales forces over the years is “Switching Cost Analysis.” The goal is to help retain your customers! As a competitive intelligence professional, you can help Sales boost their creativity in using this tool.

Often the purchase price for your product is more expensive than the competitor’s. However, once you identify all the hidden costs, the cost for the customer to switch to the competitor’s product might be more expensive than if they stayed with your company’s solution.

When I sold telecommunications systems, for example, my competitors only included the cost of the phone equipment and conveniently left out all the network fees required to make their phone system work. I included that cost. They also downplayed the cost and time to train people how to use new technology, not just the user’s but also the customer’s installation and maintenance people. You can help your sales force be more creative about what costs your competitor may be omitting, and perhaps cast a shadow of a doubt about the competition. If they forget to include too many costs, the customer might wonder what else the competitor is not telling them!

Next Generation Competitive Intelligence Deliverables: SCIP Webinar

This promises to be a great webinar which coincidentally illustrates cooperative intelligence practices, both cooperative communication and cooperative connection. The material Marty Palka covers will also be useful outside of the competitive intelligence profession. Anyone who provides a service will benefit from his ideas.

This Webinar is sponsored by SCIP.
“Next Generation Competitive Intelligence Deliverables ”
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. USA EST; Feb. 18, 2009
Fee: Member $95*  Non-member $195*
*A site is one computer used to view the Webinar
Register Here.   scip-webinar-archives

Next generation companies will be more collaborative with far more interactions among their customers, suppliers, employees and partners. This will mandate that competitive intelligence professionals incorporate next generation technology when creating competitive intelligence deliverables.

Through his experience at Cisco, Marty will tell you how to communicate more effectively by adding Web 2.0 technology to your communication arsenal.  He will talk about how to truly connect with people, and how to rate and assess the connection.  Through social networks, you connect with so many more people that you need to stand back and re-assess your connections periodically to concentrate on the most valuable, and to reach out to people in areas where you might be weak, such as innovation.  I like that Marty will share ideas on the other end of connection: how people assess you and your deliverables as a competitive intelligence professional.  It will be the best of both worlds: traditional and Web 2.0 connecting and communicating!

Here are key points that Marty will cover:

1) The Virtual Competitive Intelligence Professional: Locate, rank and rate experts within your organization.
2) Video: Change the process to take advantage of video’s unique attributes to deliver competitive intelligence.
3) Global: Go where the expertise is 24 hours a day.
4) Green: Right for the world and right for your business.
Metrics measure the success of Cisco’s competitive intelligence deliverables.
Quantitative: Number of hits, listeners, viewers, interactions, and actions taken. Qualitative: Recommendations, Revenue, Profitability, Setting the Industry Agenda.

Marty Palka is Chief Intelligence Analyst, (CIA), Investor Relations for Cisco Systems. He has contributed to Cisco Systems’ strategic and tactical intelligence initiatives since joining the company in 1995. Previously he was a Director and Principal Analyst at Dataquest. He has also worked at SGI, Prime Computer, and Data General. He earned his M.B.A and B.S. from Boston University.

Contact Registration:
Program content & logistics: Sandy Skipper at +1.703.739.0696 x110,
Robyn Reals at +1.703.739.0696 X107,

Learn about more SCIP events.

Learn about SCIP’s annual conference here.scip-09-chicago

Take advantage of the special Early Bird Reduced rate until the close of registration, April 12th, 2009.  All that is required is that my name, Ellen Naylor, be mentioned on the attached form which should be faxed to 703-739-2524.

Getting into Your Competitor’s Head: A Case Study

Competitive intelligence professionals often spend too much time collecting competitive data and not enough time digesting what it really means, and how it can help their managers make better decisions.  In the February McKinsey Quarterly, “Getting into Your Competitor’s Head,”  the authors (Hugh Courtney, John Horn and Jayanti Kar) discuss that in order to be more predictive you need to insert yourself into both your competitor’s company moves as well as their decision-making, which often don’t match.  In the usual McKinsey style, they supplied a great visual to get people thinking about a process to predict competitor’s moves and reactions to your moves outside of scenario planning.


This article reminded me of a company I analyzed in the glass industry.  I learned their major factory was in disrepair, as the company was investing minimally in new equipment and was just patching up the glass furnaces. They were hiring workers who spoke little English, a huge safety hazard around the extreme heat of glass production.  The company was clearly losing money in this business, and I just couldn’t understand why they stayed in the business.  The analyst community was also puzzled.

I got my answer as I listened to a quarterly earnings conference call.  One analyst queried the CEO about the failing glass business, and the CEO sadly answered, “Ah well yes, there is our glass business…sigh…” with a heavy voice full of remorse.  He was staying in the industry since his Dad had bought into it, and he wanted to keep it going.  It was an emotional decision, so I predicted that the glass business would not be for sale unless something drastic happened, like an accident at the factory which resulted in the loss of human life or stockholders complaining that this glass business was pulling down the company’s earnings and stock value.  A couple of years later, an influential stockholder wrote up his disgust about this company’s poor performing glass business and publicized it widely.  My client seized the moment and put in a bid for the glass business and I’m sure they got a good deal.

Some companies conduct an elaborate and expensive process called wargaming to get inside their competitor’s heads.  In some cases it’s warranted. In simpler cases, be creative: identify the key decision-maker’s motivation, personality style and track record through personality profiling, to predict how s/he will lead the company or react to your product launches.  There may be several decision-makers to consider depending on the company and your focus. Don’t get blindsided: sometimes market events change in a way that affects the executive’s decision-making pre-disposition due to stress or they rely on a key influencer that you hadn’t considered.

Do you have any stories to share about how you got into your competitor’s head?

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Build Cooperative Trust: Learn from Millard Fuller, Habitat for Humanity Visionary

creativitycentralmariacharlie1I just had the privilege to attend my friends, Maria and Charlie Girsch’s 40th wedding anniversary celebration which started with a renewal of their vows.  Maria and Charlie are toy inventors who lead Creativity Central where they teach people how to be creative based on their 25 years of creativity with toys.  Their list of toy inventions numbers over 200!

Their celebration service was led by The Very Reverend Peter Eaton of Saint John’s Cathedral in Denver, Colorado.   He gave a stirring homily as he recounted the life of Millard Fuller, the visionary whose ideas and tireless work created Habitat for Humanity in 1976 who died on Feb. 3, 2009. How fortunate for Millard Fuller that President Jimmy Carter publicly supported Habitat in its early days which gave the organize a huge PR boost!  He has been an active volunteer in building Habitat homes and endorsing Habitat.

By Habitat’s 25th anniversary, tens of thousands of people were volunteering with Habitat and more than 500,000 people were living in Habitat homes.  “Millard Fuller’s drive and relentless commitment to affordable housing captured people’s imagination and changed lives around the world,” said J. Ronald Terwilliger, chair of Habitat’s International Board of Directors. “His inspiration lives on in Habitat’s work and through its employees, volunteers, partner families and supporters.”

Today more than a million people live in Habitat built, reconstructed or revamped homes, which are in more than 100 countries. Former President Jimmy Carter said: “He (Fuller) was an inspiration to me, other members of our family and an untold number of volunteers who worked side by side under his leadership.” Former President Bill Clinton has also volunteered on Habitat projects. When he presented Fuller the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996, Clinton said, “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Millard Fuller has literally revolutionized the concept of philanthropy.”

Millard Fuller’s leadership of Habitat for Humanity is an example of cooperative intelligence in the non-profit world, which continues to thrive.  It is a hugely successful cooperative effort by many people to restore or build homes for the less fortunate around the globe.

In our tough economic times, leadership needs to engage in cooperative intelligence and build support systems among employees, customers and suppliers like Miller Fuller did for Habitat. Many employees feel fear, and that they’re beaten up by their company’s management to do more with less.  How will companies foster a cooperative spirit when they are struggling to survive? It is more important than ever that the remaining employees in companies feel valued and are motivated to work hard, not just to keep their jobs, but because they want to.

What steps can you take to build up your company’s cooperative intelligence “trust” fund?

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