Improve Your Competitiveness: Adopt Technology & Pharmacology to Boost Intelligence

Jamais Cascio

Jamais Cascio

I read “Get Smart” without any reference to Maxwell Smart by Jamais Cascio in the July/Aug Atlantic Online magazine. The focus of the article was on how technology is making us smarter.  Those who don’t take advantage of technology and pharmacology might be at a competitive disadvantage, increasingly so in the future.

We are still biased towards near-term solutions and winners will need to plan for and understand long-term risks.  Today we are getting smarter through what Jamais describes as intelligence augmentation.

While Nicholas Carr (“Is Google Making Us Stupid“) argues that the Internet with its information dense, hyperlink-richness makes it harder for us to engage in deep, relaxed contemplation, Steven Johnson (Everything Bad is Good), argues that the increasing complexity of the media we engage with, is making us smarter. With this intelligence, we are able to make connections and see patterns in order to avoid being overwhelmed by this information glut.

As a competitive intelligence professional, I am expected to uncover patterns to predict where a competitor, the market or technology is going, so ” getting smarter” really resonates, especially from the information glut, never mind the increased connections due to social networks.

What’s exciting about the future is how tools for managing information overload are being developed. Fluid intelligence, the ability to find meaning in confusion and solve new problems, independent of this knowledge, is what competitive intelligence professionals do today. Just imagine how much more powerful we’ll be in the future.

When I interviewed some competitive technical intelligence (CTI) experts for my chapter in CI Foundation’s Competitive Technical Intelligence, these experts were already using some great visualization tools to harness the tons of information they must process to compete in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, for example. Several experts cited Eastport Analytics as a resource to help CTI managers select the right software tools to support their needs for monitoring, mapping and analyzing the competitive marketplace. Eastport Analytics offers 450 software tools and stays informed with all the latest software changes, upgrades and new providers.

Jamais writes about the development of attention filters or focus assistants which would focus our attention on messages that are important to us, based on learning what kinds of messages we are reading and which we discard through the various media we subscribe to. We would move from a world of “continuous partial attention” to one of “continuous augmented awareness,” as the messages we don’t care about would be faded on our display screen, for example. As our capacity to provide that filter becomes faster and richer, it becomes akin to collaborative intuition.

Pharmacology can also help enhance the brain. Modafinil, originally developed to keep people alert for an extended period of time like 30 hours, also provides cognitive enhancements, such as pattern recognition, spatial planning and sharpens focus and alertness. There are other brain boosting drugs, but the point is that people seeking competitive advantage may include brain drugs to improve their competitiveness.

The article also goes into the development of an artificial mind which would continue to modify itself to get smarter. That seems pretty far out to me.

However, I agree with the conclusions of the article that by 2030, we’ll live in a world where sophisticated foresight, detailed analysis and insight and augmented awareness will be commonplace. Many professionals will use simulation and modeling in their daily work as the supporting technology will be readily available.

While cultures may adopt these technologies differently, hopefully our global diversity will help us be cooperative and cope with the various world dangers such as the climate crisis, energy shortage, growing population density, global hunger, global healthcare and the spread of pandemics, which will require the greatest possible insight, creativity and innovation.

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Competitive Technical Intelligence (CTI) Released at #SCIP09 in Chicago

This is a continuation of my SCIP09 Conference learning. This book fills a void as a current, comprehensive CTI resource. Competitive Technical Intelligence focuses on science and technology (S&T) and provides methods and tools to help companies, labs and governments maintain a technical competitive edge.

techologychipThe book is divided into 5 areas: CTI Today; CTI Organizations and Operations; CTI Tools and Methods; CTI Company and Industry Case Studies and Outlook for CTI. There are 20 chapters each written by a CTI expert.

The book begins with a definition of CTI. Simply put, CTI is technical analysis within the competitive intelligence discipline.

CTI seeks to identify a competitor’s R&D strategy and innovation pipeline to identify the next generation of threats in the marketplace. CTI typically includes the analysis of patents, scientific publications, news sources, open innovation needs, and other technological, engineering, or scientific sources. It focuses on identifying technological trends, opportunities and threats, and their relationship to competitors’ business strategies.

CTI often provides the longest future look at your competition versus other forms of competitive intelligence such as sales, product and financial.

CTI’s key attributes include:

Analysis of science and technical aspects of the external environment

Current, timely, accurate and defensible

Analyzed information that has been processed, validated and interpreted

Actionable, containing recommendations that imply what needs to be done

Gathered using ethical and legal means

CTI is not:

National security intelligence or espionage

Industrial espionage Market research or marketing

An isolated information gathering effort

In 1997, Brad Ashton and Dick Klavans, authors of Keeping Abreast of Science and Technology, observed that CTI was a young area of business. It has since evolved, and practitioners indicate that CTI products have had a significant impact on company and S&T decisions. I will write more about this CTI book in future blogs. Meanwhile read more about this here and order your copy through Bonnie Hohhof  at SCIP.

How have you used competitive technical intelligence at your company? Do you see CTI as a growing practice or do you feel its vulnerability in these troubled times?

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.

Opportunity Analysis in These Tough Economic Times

rockporttxI am traveling with my artist husband, Rodgers this week so I am writing from Rockport which is a charming art town by the Gulf in South Texas. Since we live in the mountains of Colorado, the ocean beckoned us in between Rodgers’ art shows in Houston. How can you go wrong hanging out in the friendly state of Texas?! Last weekend was Houston’s Bayou City Art Festival. This weekend is the Woodlands Waterway Art Festival about 40 miles North of Houston.

I was going to take the rest of this week off from blogging, but I have been inspired by my customer, who works in the industrial space manufacturing products and their main factory and R&D facility are US based. If that isn’t unusual enough, they have hired me to help improve their competitive intelligence process, and improve their sales intelligence by getting Sales to capture competitor data, market intelligence, new technology (CTI) and ideas for product and service development.  This is not a Fortune 500 company, but they are the market leader in their space, and after talking to their leadership and hearing their drive, I am not surprised!

Folks, they aren’t missing a beat in this depression or whatever you want to call these rocky economic times. They are introducing new products, in fact a new technology that will be disruptive in their industry since it can be installed without shutting down the customer’s machinery! They are adding new services to their product line, which are services the customer used to do themselves. However, with all the outsourcing that goes on today, many customers had outsourced these services to contractors, who are not as skilled in providing these services as my customer would be.

The message here is do an opportunity analysis. These are tough times for sure. Study what your customers are going through and how they’re being impacted. This might be the perfect time to introduce a disruptive technology, especially if it saves the customer money or is easier to install and maintain than the “old” technology. It could be that there are more services you can offer your customers today since they’ve reduced their staff in areas where you are very qualified to step in.

Here’s an example in my trade, competitive intelligence. I notice many companies are downsizing their research and library functions.  This is an opportunity for competitive intelligence professionals to add competitor, market trends and technology monitoring to your marketing mix. It’s a complementary skill to what we already do, and I see the demand rising.

So what are you going to offer your customers that they will value in these tough times?

Best Practices in Competitive Technical Intelligence – CTI

I am writing a chapter for the Competitive Intelligence Foundation’s upcoming book, Competitive Technical Intelligence. CTI seeks to identify competitor’s R&D strategy and innovation pipeline to identify the next generation of threats in the marketplace. CTI typically includes the analysis of patents, scientific publications, new sources, open innovation needs, and other technological, engineering or scientific sources. It focuses on identifying technological trends, opportunities and threats, and how these relate to competitors’ business strategies. In the spirit of cooperation, here’s a sneak preview from my chapter, a summary of interviews with CTI experts on “What are best practices for competitive technical intelligence?”

technical-intelligence-science-croppedBest in class companies hire a person with the right education and experience to converse knowledgeably with scientists, engineers and business people.  They have the ability to manage relationships across all the company’s functions and with all levels of management.

Other desirable traits include:
– Translate science and concepts into business and marketing terms
– Leave one’s ego aside and work towards the company’s goals
– Have a reputation for seeking win/win outcomes
– Hold sources and information confidentially
– Have the ability to sit in the other guy’s chair whether interviewing or communicating deliverables to various CTI customers
– Be responsive to customers: make sure that KITs (key intelligence topics) you agreed upon are still valid
– Anticipate customer’s needs before they ask
– Work with the competitive intelligence managers and the business side

Organizations that are best in class have senior management who recognize the need for CTI. These executives provide the CTI analyst with relevant insight based on their relationships with industry C-levels.  The CTI staff provides data and analysis to support key executive decisions.

Best in class companies consider primary intelligence gathering a key practice. While technology has made great strides for information collection and organization, people are still needed, since critical thinking is absent strictly using technology. People who conduct R&D are experts in their field and have extensive networks. Tap into individual networks and get access to intra-company networks, company to government R&D organizations, and company to company networks (from conferences and presentations.) Another way to think about this is that everyone has access to published data. Your competitive advantage comes fromasking experts lots of questions and continuing the dialog regularly.

Successful organizations systematically track patents and other scientific or technical developments to identify technologies which might change the marketplace. They have invested in sophisticated database technology which not only collects competitor data, but also classifies it into relevant categories and in some cases maps it out.  This level of sophistication allows the CTI manager to spend more time analyzing the data and meeting with people.  Best in class firms also track changes in consumer attitude and behaviors which could be precursors to new technology acceptance.

Excellent companies support their CTI network with a relational database which links CTI analysts in multiple applications areas across the company.  The CTI team clearly communicates a project criteria list that everyone can understand, since CTI is not on the list of standard departments within a company.

Best in class companies systematically map technology from the earliest research phase all the way through product launch.  So much technology never reaches product launch. They opportunistically identify where and why it stopped in development.  For example, they might acquire the company that was behind the research phase to gain a competitive advantage in product development.

Lastly best in class companies have quality control around CTI deliverables.  Data is validated. One practice is to conduct team analysis before creating the deliverable.  The team would consist of marketing, sales, technical services application development, R&D, who all bring their different points of view of how they perceive information, also their different history.  In this way you don’t jump to conclusions and don’t decide too quickly.

The CTI book will be coming out at SCIP’s annual conference held in Chicago from April 21 – 24. In the meantime, here are two great books on CTI:

Keeping Abreast of Science and Technology: Technical Intelligence for Business by Bradford Ashton & Richard Klavans, 1997  ; and Competitive Technical Intelligence: A Guide to Design, Analysis and Action by Mathias M. Coburn, 1999. BTW, building on his CTI expertise, Brad Ashton is editor of CI Foundation’s Competitive Technical Intelligence.

How do you use CTI in your organization?  Do you have best in class practices to share?

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