Do You Question Your Assumptions?

Dr Donald RedelmeierHow often do you read articles from the same sources and continue practices that you are comfortable with—without questioning your assumptions? I focus on research, competitive intelligence and cooperative intelligence and found “Think the Answer’s Clear: Look Again” a recent NY Times article a great example of questioning your assumptions.  Dr. Donald Redelmeier, a physician researcher published a study in 1997 in the New England Journal of Medicine which concluded that driving while talking on a cellphone was as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. While commonly believed today, this was news in 1997!

Dr. Redelmeier has conducted several studies around behaviors while driving since he believes “Life is a marathon, not a sprint,” and “A great deal of mischief occurs when people are in a rush.” One of my favorites is around the psychology of changing lanes in traffic. “You think more cars are passing you when you’re actually passing them just as quickly. Still, you make a lane change where the benefits are illusory and not real.” Meanwhile, changing lanes increases the likelihood of a collision about threefold!

Dr. Redelmeier says it so nicely, “Do not get trapped into prior thoughts. It’s perfectly OK to change your mind as you learn more.” He extends this belief not only across his research quests and findings, but also in his practice as a doctor. He is more likely to intercept diagnosis and treatment errors at an earlier stage since he is willing to change based on new information. I want to be treated by a doctor like Dr. Redelmeier.

Dr. Redelmeiers’ practices can be adopted by competitive intelligence and research professionals. He is a critical thinker who observes behaviors, questions them and conducts research which proves or disproves his beliefs. He has learned that so many accidents in life happen when people are in a hurry. This is true in competitive intelligence research as well as most business functions. We are in too much of a hurry to produce our work, and the quality suffers. We don’t learn from our mistakes since we’re too busy and onto the next project.

In “One Upping the Competition,” Ken Sawka suggests that companies also focus on post-strategy early warning. In simple terms, it’s recognizing the patterns of what a competitor might be planning based on their actions in real-time, and changing your strategy and tactics based on these observations. Does your company recognize the pattern changes of your competitors and your marketplace? Or are you too impatient and insular to do this? Once you recognize pattern changes, is your leadership nimble enough to change your behavior in time?

If you want to stay in business for the long haul, you need to be observant about your marketplace, question your assumptions, and be willing to make changes based on what you learn in time!

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Jan Herring’s Words of Wisdom for Info Pros

I spent most of this week in New Orleans at SLA’s annual conference. I really enjoyed it, and this blog hails competitive intelligence pioneer, Jan Herring. While his communication was geared to information professionals, competitive intelligence professionals take note!

Jan is so supportive of the competitive intelligence profession and I think is a true cooperative intelligence practitioner in that he is so giving. He was the CI division’s breakfast speaker, as well as a panel member on two consecutive panel discussions, Ask The Competitive Intelligence Experts and Competitive Intelligence Transitions for LIS Professionals. Jan is regarded as the father of modern competitive intelligence as he started Motorola’s first formal program, after a distinguished first career with the CIA.

Behind each successful CI process is a corporate library or at least librarian support, as timely, focused secondary research is a valuable component of CI. Bonnie Hohhof of SCIP fame, was the corporate librarian at Motorola that Jan selected to help form the CI team. Jan still quotes Peggy Carr’s 2003 book, “Super Searchers in Competitive Intelligence” as a good resource on how research and CI are tied together.

Jan reviewed the basics of competitive intelligence including the traditional intelligence cycle and the knowledge pyramid to build insightful, actionable intelligence. Intelligence is the right information, delivered and prepared for the people in the company who have the authority to make decisions. In this vein, Jan shared former Motorola CEO Bob Galvin’s parable. Bob had made a bad decision around a market entry. There was one employee who didn’t share some key information, and Bob wondered whose fault it was that the employee hadn’t shared this information. His or the employee’s? Jan asserted that it was the employee’s and honed in on connecting with the right employees around key decisions.

Another gem was, “Get your information and insight into the Heads of decision-makers, not just their Hands.”  A great quote he shared from Robert Steele, “Information costs money. Intelligence makes money.” Jan recommends is that the insight created by intelligence findings and conclusions be measured or valued through ROI. Jan wrote an article on this topic in the Mar/Apr 2007 Competitive Intelligence Magazine published by SCIP.

Jan suggests that you learn to think like your leadership and communicate with them in their words being careful not to insert competitive intelligence verbiage. Know how they are motivated since what makes the management team successful isn’t what makes Info Pros or CI professionals successful. Tim Kindler of Kodak ties his CI deliverables to corporate management’s calendar of needs and events. Respected CI professionals are humble as they set aside their egos and false assumptions, but not too humble so as not to persuasively communicate findings to management.

There are three areas where information pros and CI professionals can improve:

  1. Financial based reporting – work with the finance department to develop and monitor financial benchmarks against your major competitors
  2. Early warning – build innovative secondary source monitoring as a base for your primary researchers to verify findings through people to develop early warning alerts
  3. CI software – develop software applications to support the monitoring, collection, storage and dissemination of information. More refined software is developed all the time such as Link Analysis and Evidence Based Research. A supplier to consider which assesses almost all CI software providers is Eastport Analytics. You can find some individual CI software providers at SCIP’s website.

A final key finding that Jan and Paul Houston uncovered during their research of 20 companies: it’s most important for firms to have a savvy CI manager/director who produces what management wants/needs. You need to do CI on your own leadership to keep a pulse on their ever changing needs.

SCIP Denver/Rocky Mtn Chapter Meeting Feb 19 2010

In the spirit of cooperative intelligence I want to share the news about our SCIP Denver Rocky Mountain Meeting which takes place tomorrow.

I also want to thank Lynnette Woolery our Chairperson who has been leading our chapter for more than 5 years! She has worked in competitive intelligence for US West, Qwest, Ericsson and Xcel Energy. Now she heads Xcel Energy’s product development for alternative energy. Thank you Lynnette!

In a similar vein, thank you Tom Seward and Richard Caldwell for taking the reins to run our chapter now! I look forward to the programs that you’ll develop!

Here is the logistics for the meeting and Tom and Richard’s biographies.

Theme: Network & Discuss What Members Want from SCIP Meetings
Friday, February 19, 2010    11:30AM – 1:30PM
Qwest Building 1801 California Street
Conference Room 3, 13th Floor Denver, CO  80202

Tom Seward has over nine years of professional law library experience and over 15 years of research experience.  During this time he earned an MLIS from the University of Denver and a Paralegal Certificate from George Washington University.  In the last few years he has formally started focusing on competitive intelligence work, primarily in the service industries.  He works at Ballard Spahr, LLP.

Richard Caldwell is a 23-year Air Force Veteran.  His primary career field was Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance or C4ISR.  He currently works at Northrop Grumman working Competitive Intelligence for the Department of Defense customer set and doing market analysis for specific locations.  Rich has many ideas on how to grow our chapter via such things as a better use of networking tools and reaching out to local colleges and universities.

Registration Fees: (Box Lunch, Presentation and Networking Included)
SCIP Members:  $10.00
Non-Members:  $15.00

Registration

I regret that I won’t be there since I am still in Washington, DC, in the land of much snow! I wholeheartedly endorse our new leadership!

Purposeful Cooperative Leadership in Competitive Intelligence

Cooperative Leadership

I was led to the Purposeful Leaderships’ blog, “Leading from the Heart” by Janna Rust earlier this week. Leading from the heart is a trait of cooperative intelligence, namely cooperative leadership as it rings of caring and authenticity.  Janna also discusses taking care of your reporting people by being there for them and listening. Another great point is to “be protective” of your reporting people and let them know you’re all on the same team.

So many things I read about leadership focus on “managing up”, that is impress your bosses. This often comes at the expense of managing your subordinates, who are doing the work! Yet it’s a delicate balance since your boss decides on your pay raise, can open a lot of doors, and often controls or influences budget moneys allocated to your projects. Whether with bosses, peers or subordinates, cooperative leadership is more about “them” and less about me.

In competitive intelligence and research, many of us don’t have any reporting people and report into another functional area of the company such as Sales, Marketing, Strategic Planning, Product Development or Research & Development. Often enough, they aren’t quite sure what to do with us.

Cooperative and purposeful leadership skills are all the more essential when you rely on other people to give you great information or intelligence who don’t report to you, and your boss perhaps views you as an outlier since competitive intelligence doesn’t quite fit into anyone’s area.

I spent a lot of time meeting with people and listening to their business problems as a competitive intelligence manager. I was really attuned to emotional intelligence as I dealt with my network of contacts and internal company customers and was sensitive to how they were motivated. I would attempt to match my communication style with theirs, including my body language. This was how I behaved whether dealing with peers, subordinates, my internal clients, my sources or my superiors.

I was protective of my sources, especially Sales. Everyone in marketing wanted Sales’ input into their projects. Over time I became the “unofficial” marketing liaison person to Sales. This almost eliminated the number of requests that went to Sales for quick turnaround corporate projects. I made it my business to have more interaction with Sales, and to let them know I reduced their work load, and appreciated that their time should be spent selling. This was the most purposeful leadership I had while at Verizon. I knew I needed to be cooperative in order to gain sales intelligence and customer’s input to be successful in competitive intelligence.

In what ways are you purposeful and cooperative in your leadership and management?

Cooperative Leadership: Lessons Learned from my Dad

I’ve really diverged on this blog lately as the loss of my Dad has been preeminent in my life. I was thinking about how my Dad instilled cooperative leadership in me without knowing it. It’s warming to realize this now that he’s gone. If I ever finish my book on Cooperative Intelligence, I will dedicate it to him.

My Dad was comfortable and accepting of himself as a good person. He also had the gift of warmth that goes along with being cooperative, not just in business but in life. I have noticed that cooperative leadership emanates from people who are comfortable with themselves and who don’t have those psychological issues of trying to be “one-up” on others. They are deeply rooted with “take me as I am.”  People feel comfortable with this type of person: all personality types. People opened up to my Dad: they told them what was on their mind without his asking, although he often did ask how they were doing. He really wanted to know: it wasn’t just a nicety of speech.

This trait of cooperative leadership was why at work out of 10 lawyers, 90% of the calls were for my Dad right up until he retired in 1984. Just think how many fans he would have on his Facebook page today! Another trait he had which is extremely cooperative was to ask the other person if s/he realized the consequences of his action(s) or inaction! By then he had them emotionally hooked, as the consequences could be quite dire: that’s why they were calling him. A cooperative person acknowledges that the other person needs to take responsibility and own their actions.

A cooperative person looks out for the other guy. My Dad was all about that. He was so excellent at what he did and won numerous awards over the years, which he happily and graciously accepted, but didn’t bask in. As I prepared his eulogy, I had so many great examples of how Dad looked out for the other guy: ranging from pointing out to his houseboy and cook that he was too smart to be a cook and should go to college. This gentleman went on to become the youngest full professor at Nihon University, one of Tokyo’s prestigious universities, in the 1960s.  This friend, Masa, flew in from Tokyo to attend my Dad’s memorial service. Another dear friend told me that had it not been for Dad’s help, commendation and spurring him on, he would never have made it to the rank of a General in the US Army Reserves.

Our society seems to focus so much on ME, when it’s really all about how I can help others be who they can be, that gets ME to where I can be. We all have the gift of influencing each other in good ways throughout life, which I term as being cooperative, being open to noticing how we can help others.

As a 25-year competitive intelligence practitioner, I was a cooperative manager from the start, and found that people…once they realized I was for real…would provide me with some really valuable tidbits on the competition, the marketplace, new technology and regulatory trends, the major drivers in the telecommunications industry.

I hope you can take some time out during this Chanukah and Christmas season to think about how you’re going to help other people in the coming year. I am thinking about changing my profession to something more directly humanitarian than competitive intelligence, but realize that will take a few years to transition into. I would love to hear from you about what I should consider. I find I am attracted to health whether it’s the body or spirit.

Introduction to Competitive Intelligence

At a recent Denver joint SCIP and APMP chapter meeting, I was asked to put together some introductory slides about competitive intelligence to set the stage for the more sophisticated discussion around “Price to Win,” which is sophisticated analysis around bids/outcomes for major contracts, usually with huge government customers.

CI process

Competitive Intelligence Process

As I assembled my slides, I realized that very little has changed in the competitive intelligence (CI) process, while the execution of the collection phase of competitive intelligence has changed remarkably over the 20+ years I have been in the business with the advent of the Internet in all its iterations, e-mail, text messaging and more recently through social networks.  This also affects counterintelligence, since it is easier for your competitors—or anyone who is interested enough—to dig up information about your company that you consider proprietary. This information comes not only through electronic means, but through ex-employees, especially from all the downsizing in the last couple of years.

One common misconception is that competitive intelligence just focuses on the competition. Make no mistake competition is part of this: but you also want to take into account all the factors that affect the competitive marketplace such as economic conditions like the current unstable economy. In the US, the stock market has staged a quick recovery although the NYSE is still 4000 points below its peak in 2007. When you consider the stock market’s quick ascent after such a steady descent, you have to wonder how sustainable it is and how this will affect your customers, suppliers and competitors. Politics can affect the competitive marketplace. Were I in the US healthcare business, I would study all the ramifications of the proposed healthcare reform, and would conduct scenario planning exercises to prepare my company for change.

Here are 10 points to consider whether you’re starting or leading an established CI operation regardless of how you’re organized or what country you work in. These points are timeless: I put this list together in the early 1990s. While technology impacts our lives far more than it did then, human nature has not changed, and that’s what’s behind these steps.

1. Identify primary users
2. Focus on critical users’ needs
3. Fashion products to meet users’ needs
4. Be mindful of the company culture
5. Identify & build on infrastructure that supports CI
6. Organize & expand your people network constantly
7. Promote communication
8. Don’t implement automation before people
9. Checkpoint performance always
10. Stay focused

I didn’t include cooperative intelligence when I started my CI career since I was too focused on learning how to do competitive intelligence. Cooperative Intelligence focuses on good communication, solid connections, and being respected as a leader by providing good knowledge and insightful work. CI is more of a back office function: CEOs don’t look to hire people in their c-suite with CI experience. However, many areas within a company do rely on good competitive intelligence–which if communicated well and in a timely fashion–does lead people to respect the CI manager. You can be the greatest executor of competitive intelligence, but if you can’t communicate relevant information and analysis to the right people at the right time, it really doesn’t matter. This is the core of cooperative intelligence in the context of competitive intelligence—being so connected with your internal customers, that you know what to provide when—and get feedback from them, so you stay on target.

Are Associations Going the Way of Print Media?: Part II

42-18373074Association chapters, the grass roots of associations, are often the step-children in the association world since they don’t produce revenue, and many don’t even break even. I think that is particularly true using the traditional model, especially if the association centrally controls chapters versus letting them run themselves.

In today’s world the high cost of in-person chapter meetings has resulted in much lower attendance. Chapter leadership often runs in-person meetings using the same format in the same location year after year. We are certainly guilty of that in our Denver SCIP (Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals) chapter, which I really hadn’t thought about until I did the research to analyze the location of our members. About half of us work in Boulder and the Northern Denver suburbs, so are not keen on trekking into Denver where we hold our meetings. We have never hosted a Boulder meeting, and then again none of our Boulder members has volunteered to host. They probably didn’t realize that half of us are there!

Recently a few of us put our heads together to start adapting our chapter meeting venue to the reality of today’s dispersed and busy workforce. We are co-hosting a meeting with the Denver APMP (Association of Proposal Management Professionals) chapter on Sept. 25 at 3 p.m. where people will have 3 choices for connection:

1. In person business meeting: 3:00 – 4:30 pm
Ballard Spahr, LLP
1225 17th Street, Suite 2300 Denver, CO  80202
Directions:  http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=wl
Cost:  $10 (pay on-site or register through SCIP)

2. Webinar Business Meeting: 3:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Dimdim Webinar: RSVP apmp.colorado@gmail.com, and include name, SCIP/APMP member or guest and David Shipley will email you instructions from Dimdim.
Cost: None

3. Social Meeting: 4:40 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. (or later…)
Location: Prime Bar
1515 Arapahoe Street Denver, CO  80202
(One block away from Ballard Spahr) RSVP: renaylor at wispertel.net
Cost: You pay for your drinks & snacks

The presentation “From CI to the Opportunity: Practical Steps to Winning!”
addresses the competitive intelligence (CI) process and how to use CI to get to the “First Place”—that is winning more business!

Folks are invited to attend any of these venues. If you don’t have time for the meeting, you can meet us at Prime Bar. We are hoping to engage our members by giving them more choices for connection, and the additional cross-pollination between SCIP and APMP members. Just in case you’re interested, here is the detail for things like registration, speakers, etc.

So what are you doing to engage participation and cooperation among your membership at the local association level? We’re considering a LinkedIn Group, a Ning group, or starting a Denver chapter within the already existing CI Ning group. We will Tweet on Twitter about our local meetings under #denverci. Our virtual space will provide 24/7 communication and we will help our members find work through job postings there too.

In the spirit of cooperative intelligence, I am forming a Denver group around intelligence collaboration to include people who are not full-time CI practitioners. For example your job might be in product management, sales, marketing, forecasting, strategic planning or mining information, but intelligence collection and analysis is part of your job. If you’re interested, please contact me at renaylor at wispertel.net and I’ll include you in our future events.

BTW, this is similar to the intelligence collaboration instigated by futurist Eric Garland  on our CI Ning which I invite you to join.

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