3 New Competitive Intelligence Books

Red open bookIt is my pleasure to share 3 great competitive intelligence books that came to my attention this week.

Business and Competitive Analysis: Effective Applications of New and Classic Methods, 2nd Edition by Craig Fleisher and Babette Bensoussan, Pearson, 2015.

So what’s changed in this version?

  • They have included new techniques not included in the 1st edition
  • They include Key Intelligence Questions for each technique
  • They give you ideas for other similar or complementary techniques you can use
  • There is a worksheet that you can use for each technique, handy for teachers too
  • They also teach you a better SWOT.
  • Babette Bensoussan promises once you use this improved SWOT, you won’t turn back to the old 4 boxes one.

Craig Fleisher informs that customer orders for printed copies overwhelmed their publisher, Pearson, this week. They should be available again next week. For those of you who need it more quickly, the digital version is available at Amazon and other digital on-line retailers.

 

The Guide to Online Due Diligence Investigations: The Professional Approach on How to Use Traditional and Social Media Resources by Cynthia Hetherington, Facts on Demand Press, 2015.

Learn “Hetherington’s methods” in this book which provide the information for you to:

  • Conduct an online background on any business, person or entity, foreign or domestic
  • Hunt down online social network profiles and locate assets
  • Set up alerts for asset tracking or any type of investigation
  • Learn how to keep up with cutting edge services that are coming up daily.
  • Expose fraudulent business enterprises, locate assets, and find undercover intelligence.
  • Learn about database resources and online sources for conducting research online.
  • A demonstration of actual Web sites to utilize in their own investigations.
  • Found Online – Learn where and how your personal life ends up databases and how it is sold.

 

Blue Ocean Strategy, Expanded Edition: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Market the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, Harvard Business Review Press, 2015.  Following are excerpts from Amazon reviews.

According to John Gibbs, an Amazon Top 1000 reviewer:

“While not every reader of the book will discover a perfectly formed blue ocean strategy, almost every reader who spends time and effort working through the tools provided by the authors will come up with some creative strategic ideas which might not otherwise have arisen. This is one of my favourite books on strategy and, although the changes between the first edition and the expanded edition are not substantial, they are still enough to justify the price of buying the new edition.”

Another more anonymous reviewer adds:

“This new expanded edition adds new chapters at the back covering unanswered questions from the original. The new chapter on the issue of what the authors call “alignment”, that explains how to get your staff and suppliers on board with you when you decide to make a ‘blue ocean’ move, is particularly useful. That new chapter alone made this a worthwhile purchase for me.”

Zunaira Munar comments:

“The new expanded edition of the book now puts the big picture in perspective by showing how strategic alignment of value, profit and people propositions is achieved to create a successful blue ocean strategy. The new chapter about red ocean traps is particularly insightful as it shows, through interesting examples, what keeps companies stuck in red oceans and how to overcome those mental models. The addition of two new principles of blue ocean strategy for addressing execution risks related to renewal and sustainability answer some of the very important questions that my clients have asked over the years about blue ocean strategy. It is also interesting to see how the case studies described in the original book ten years ago have evolved over the years, presenting useful insights into the sustainability of blue oceans.”

Jacqueline Chang comments:

“My favourite part about the expanded edition is that there is even more emphasis on how Blue Ocean Strategy can be applied to illuminate the human dimension of organisations, to engage people’s hearts and minds in carrying out their activities. The book illustrates how to build execution into strategy and create trust among employees and other partners. I found many useful examples that other project managers can learn from, particularly in terms of how a new strategy can be implemented quickly and at low cost.”

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The Enduring Importance of Communication & Curiosity

 

Last week I saw a thought provoking video of Sally Blount, Dean of the Kellogg School of Management on the Enduring Importance of Curiosity and Communication. In the last 10 years, the world has become more complex, inherently unstable, a world that is reaching for a new equilibrium. The technological capabilities have far outstripped our very rudimentary human ability to organize effectively. Sally is amazed how important effective communication still is, and how important and well curiosity serves a human being.

She talks about “organizational intelligence.” We can see social networks in our brain; who is linked to whom; which groups convene regularly or not; and how if you interact and intervene in that system, you can change outcomes over time. By being an architect of collaboration, you can affect outcomes through team meetings or Facebook, for example. You need to orchestrate conversations in person and virtually to move the team forward.

As the school’s dean, she comes into contact with Millennials frequently. There are two things she would like to see them do since their brain works in new ways due to their early exposure to technology. They are excellent data collectors. She would like to see them get away from collecting information and into generating insight and inspiration for what to do with that information. The only way she knows to do this is to step away from the chatter and the stimuli.

Secondly, she ponders on how we develop more organizational intelligence. How do we think with more deliberateness about the conversations that we need to have in order to move humankind forward? Her hope is that the sacredness of face to face interaction isn’t lost.

I am also reading MIT psychology Professor Sherry Turkle‘s book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. From her extensive research, she concludes that people look at technology for ways to be in relationships and yet protect ourselves from being in them at the same time. In her 15 years of research, she describes the “always on, always on you,” relationship that many people have with their smartphones, which keeps them from living in their present space.

Short, shallow, frequent bursts of communication via Twitter, Facebook or texting do not develop deep and emotional relationships, whether among friends, parent to child or between business colleagues. Taking all this time to be social media connected has reduced individual’s time and capacity for solitude, which nurtures relationships and critical thinking that Sally Blount also alludes to.

I fear that people are losing their ability to hold a conversation in our infected society of social networks, which favors many forms of digital connection with numerous people who are practically strangers, rather than really getting to know fewer people a whole lot better.

I spend a lot of time talking to people on the telephone. They answer even though they have caller ID, and don’t know who I am. Some of these folks don’t use social media so they aren’t part of that overstimulated world. Most do, but many still answer their telephone since they are inherently curious, and there aren’t enough listening ears these days, at work or at home. Technology will never replace true human connection.

What has been your experience?

Cooperative Communication: Digital versus Voice

email-phone-face-to-faceEveryday communication has become a complex business. When I started my job, it was so much easier. We had 3 choices: face-to-face, telephone and hardcopy. It was challenging enough then, since few of us received training on communication as part of our education. In years past, I picked up the telephone to communicate without an appointment. If it was a bad time, the other person would tell me and we would set up a better time.

Now we have so many additional choices ranging from old fashioned email, the various forms of social media, texting, blogs, wikis, and face to face electronic conferencing like SKYPE or Google hangouts. Where do you get trained on when and how to effectively use all these ways to communicate?

A recent HBR blog post, “Just Call Someone Already,” attracted over 100 comments and focused on when to use the phone versus email, often used instead of the phone. I resonated with the author, Dan Pallotta in his comment, “Much worse than the inefficiency of using email to set up phone calls are the missed opportunities and unnecessary misunderstandings that come when we use email instead of phone calls.”

Today many feel compelled to text or email a person to schedule a call, and better yet to avert the call, since many view phone calls as an inefficient use of time, an interruption to their day. Nobody has a monopoly on busy, and this attitude about interruption and efficiency at the expense of building human relationships seems unkind. It also feels selfish to me, since these folks are just considering their preferences, not the other person’s.

Email is often used to express emotions or feelings that people are too embarrassed to say. However, I think it’s better to confront the other person and clear things up over the telephone or better yet in person. I have received more rude emails, where people write things they would not have the nerve to say to my face or on the telephone. Another downfall of email is when it gets sent to too many people that don’t need to know or care about your communication.

I also notice rudeness in LinkedIn comments, Twitter and Facebook, where there is one up man ship professionally, for example. I resent the number of emails I get in my LinkedIn inbox asking for endorsements; please take a survey; buy my service—which these people presumably blast out to their LinkedIn connections just like email spammers. There is more blatant WIFM (what’s in it for me) in the digital world.

Everyone seems to agree that face-to-face is still the best way to connect as you can read the person’s body language which is so revealing. But in today’s world we are so scattered that many of us can’t easily or cheaply meet face-to-face. I always recommend that people connect the next best way which is often the telephone, SKYPE or Google hangouts.

However, email is still the steam engine for digital communication since it leaves a written trail, and you can communicate with many people simultaneously in one email, and time zones don’t matter. You can also attach a document for people to review, not an option with the phone, but an option with SKYPE or Google hangouts.

A best cooperative intelligence practice is to think about how the individual you want to reach likes to be communicated with, even if it’s not your preference. People in Sales figure this out pretty quickly.  They call; they fax; they email; they in-mail; whatever it takes connect to decision-makers. Another cooperative best practice is only send communication to those who will value it.

I am pretty open minded about communication. I like to stay in touch with friends and colleagues. In one win/loss project, I was doing one on one interviews. I emailed to set up a call with one non-customer. He refused, but did offer that he would be happy to email me answers to my questions. I got some of the best insight from this gentleman—all because I listened and accepted his preferred communication.

How to become an expert in primary intelligence: Interviewing

Last night I gave at talk to our DC SCIP chapter on primary intelligence collection and elicitation. I promised I would share the slides with attendees. They are on Slideshare.

Here are some of the key points from the talk about interviewing. The next blog will cover key points on elicitation.

When conducting an interview, most people know who you are and why you want to talk to them, except when you are cold calling, which is what we do often enough in competitive intelligence.

The first step in primary collection regardless of whether it’s a standard interview, elicitation or some combination is preparation. Do your homework. Find out about the person you will talk to, even if it’s a cold call. At the very least, you know their profession and their industry, which will help you develop reasons why they would want to talk with you, and more importantly, share! Do not skimp on this upfront time. Often conversations and interviews don’t go as planned. If you have done your preparation, you can more easily be flexible and go with plans b, c or d!

As you prepare for your collection project, think about what it is you will share and NOT share before you pick up the telephone or attend that trade show.

Think about why people will be motivated to share with you based on who they are: their profession, personal issues, politics, predisposition, and emotional intelligence. Be sensitive as to how they like to be communicated with based on how they come across in those first few seconds of the call or the meeting, and alter your communication style accordingly to a dominant, expressive, conscientious or amicable type. Recognize that people may change their practice and predisposition when they are under stress.

Reword your questions to motivate people to open up and share. Start with open ended questions that are easy for them to answer, and that you think they will enjoy answering. Then move to more hypothetical questions and indirect questions before you get to the more narrow questions. I find that bracketing those narrow questions gets a better response.

Listen closely to what the target is telling you, and be flexible. Perhaps they really don’t know the answers to some of those issues that you thought they would know. What are they not sharing that you thought they knew? Did they really know it or are they purposely not telling you? With so many participating in social networks there are too many self proclaimed experts who aren’t so expert once you start probing.

Lay aside your preconceived notions. Many of us listen for what we think is the ‘right’ answer or for what we want to hear. We don’t listen to the full story that the other person is telling us. Listen and put your ego aside if you want to be good in primary collection.

If you are at a trade show or another form of in-person collection, take advantage of the person’s body cues. Do the words match the facial and body expressions? If they don’t, believe the body: it’s easy to lie. In America, people often misinform. They are often just trying to be helpful, but it’s misinformation. Sometimes that’s harder to discern. One way is to make an obvious mistake in a key assumption or statistic as I ask a question. If they don’t pick up on it, I am suspicious about their knowledge level.

Also realize when dealing with people in person that it’s easier for people to manipulate their smiles and facial expressions, less easy for them to control other parts of their body such as their shoulders, arms, legs, feet and breathing.

If you are connecting on the telephone listen for a change in their tone of voice, pitch, cadence, confidence, speed of speech, hesitation, sigh, shallow breathing, silence. There are so many cues when you listen to people beyond what they say or don’t say. Trust your intuition: it’s usually right.

In closing, many people asked me how I represent myself when I talk to people. I tell them who I am right away. Many people seem to think there is one approach that will work with every person, that there is a simple answer to this question. There isn’t. You should choose to be ethical when you conduct research. SCIP has a code of ethics; AIIP and SLA have codes of ethics. Your company probably has a code of ethics or business practices they want you to follow. But most importantly you have to be true to yourself.

BTW, if you want to watch a great interview check out John Clees here and look for my next blog on elicitation.

Competitive Intelligence in 1985

ImageWhen I wrote my Pecha Kucha presentation for our SLA Competitive Intelligence tournament, I decided to go back in time to 1985, the first year I focused entirely on competitive intelligence. This is the first in a series about how I evolved in my career in competitive intelligence, and what I have learned over time. Overall I am glad I had a start back then for the critical thinking and deeper relationships I developed. I am glad to still be in this field today where I can reach out to sources quickly that I would never have dreamed even existed, thanks to social networking.

1985 was a very different time and I will focus on the US.

  • Gas was $1.09/gallon
  • Movies were $2.75
  • Rent averaged $375/month
  • The Fed’s interest rate was 10.75%.

Technical differences were also noteworthy:

  • Windows 1.0 was introduced
  • CDs were introduced in the US in 1985
  • The first mobile telephone call was made in the UK by Ernie Wise

I started to focus on what we called competitive analysis just before the Society of Competitive Intelligence (SCIP) was formed, and didn’t learn about SCIP until 1989, two years before SCIP published its first membership directory. I worked for Bell Atlantic, a new company then, a Baby Bell from the initial AT&T divestiture. We were working out our company infrastructure as I was figuring out how best to provide and collect competitive intelligence.

I did not have a PC at my desk. My telephone was the most immediate form of communication with most of the company, although I could easily have in-person meetings with our product and marketing managers who sat close-by. In fact I had to be careful not to attend too many of their meetings else I wouldn’t get my work done. It correlates somewhat to spending too much time on email and social networks today.

We shared a fax machine among many of us, and waited in line at the photocopy machine. Secretaries typed up memos and reports. We took notes by hand. We memorized people’s phone numbers and had a Rolodex of names. I cross referenced my Rolodex names by job function in case I forgot a person’s name. We used company mail and US mail (which we didn’t call snail mail) for written communication.

Presentations would be typed up, given on overhead machines or written up on flip charts. I spent less time putting together presentations through these primitive means than I do today on PowerPoint decks since our standards were lower. I think people spent more time listening to what you had to say back then, since what you produced wasn’t much to look at. It also meant you had to know your stuff since there wasn’t the crutch of media to support you. People asked more questions and had more comments since they couldn’t easily get smart before a meeting like we can today by accessing the Internet to read up a bit.

I read the news in hard copy. We distributed news sources like Time, Business Week and Fortune among ourselves. I got my own copy of The Wall Street Journal which I read daily. We noted who got which industry consultant reports and subscriptions throughout Bell Atlantic. It could be that our Philadelphia office would get the only copy of an expensive industry report, and we would have to wait our turn to read it due to copyright issues.

The first organizational thing I did was a personal SWOT. My strength has always been visionary. I can see the big picture pretty readily and am creative. I am not strong with the details and execution although I am highly intuitive. I was lucky and found a wonderful lady to work with who was great with people and had a similar work ethic to mine. Unlike me, she was attentive to detail and great with execution. Over time we became a strong team, and are still friends some 25+ years later, although we live 2000 miles apart.

Our opportunity and our immediate threat were the same thing:

  • Learn how each of our regions communicated
  • Learn each region’s culture
  • Learn how individuals were motivated to share
  • Learn how individuals and each region would accept facts and ideas from a centralized group outside their region, namely us

We had to talk with each other more often than we do today, since there was no email; no voice mail or social media connection. I got copies of company’s (competitor’s) press releases from my company’s industry liaison person soon after she received them, so I could pass on the scoop to my company clients.

We had to use our creativity to achieve real-time intelligence, since people were our only real-time source, and we had fewer people we could reach out to since our world was smaller. On a positive note, our relationships with people were deeper, perhaps since we had fewer relationships. Our critical thinking skills were naturally sharpened with these deeper relationships. I had a few people outside the company that I had provocative discussions with often. These people helped me reach outside of Bell Atlantic’s culture and expand my vision of the competitive environment.

Independence or Not?

It’s Independence Day in the US, and it makes me wonder how independent we are as individuals. These thoughts were inspired by “The Busy Trap” in the New Times by Tim Kreider.

How many times have you heard people say, “I am too busy. I am soooo busy.” Are most of us really busier than we used to be? Or are we imposing busyness by all the distractions of everyday 21st century life? I think the only ones who are truly too busy are those who are pulling 3 jobs barely scraping by; students who also work long hours while at university; single parents who no longer have the means to support their family; and those who take care of their elderly parents while also raising kids and working. Not only are they too busy, they are tired and we are losing their creativity while they are in these circumstances.

I traveled a lot in the last month to Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, DC, Virginia and Maryland. While I didn’t think about it, I found myself engaging with the present, with the people I was around and paying less attention to my social networks. I found myself a lot more relaxed, and less busy! I slept longer and was in a better mood. Laughter, which comes easily to me, was ever present. How many ways do you need to connect every day? Do you have to be connected to Twitter and Google+ constantly? How often do you need to log into LinkedIn not to mention Facebook and Foursquare? Do people really need to know what you’re doing all the time and where you ate and what airline you’re flying? Knowing when to connect on social media is a competitive advantage for individuals and for companies. Knowing when not to connect gives you more independence.

We have have had a record amount of fire destruction in Colorado already this summer. I don’t watch TV, another way that I am less busy. Last week when the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs expanded ferociously from the wind gusts and dryness, I was in touch with the present through Twitter feeds and the live video-stream on the Internet. Soon we will have systems in place to help the many families who lost their homes build back their lives.

So how does this translate into competitiveness? We are flooded with incoming information and ways that people steal our time from us, if we pay attention to all of it, or even to too much of it. You don’t need to know ALL the information out there about your marketplace, new technology, the economy, the political situation, your customers, your suppliers and your competitors. Rather you need to know WHEN to pay attention when you are NOTICING CHANGE. If you spend too much time listening to all the chatter you might miss the important changes or your ability to predict how the marketplace is evolving and what you need to do to stay on top or at least to stay competitive!

So on this Independence Day, think about how you are going to regain some lost time in your life by turning down some of that “social noise,” tempting though it be. Learn how to relax again. I plan to enjoy my Mom today who is 94 and is visiting us. Maybe that’s why “The Busy Trap” spoke to me. I want to relish the time I have with her today. BTW she is napping now.

Personality Profiling: Gauge Your Competitor’s Management Team

Last week I attended AIIP’s annual conference in Indianapolis, IN. I learned so much about running a small business better!

I gave a talk on competitive intelligence, and how information professionals can make a decent living by adding this skill to their research toolkit. Many are good at the collection and organization of findings. However, one area that folks seemed less familiar with was analytic tools, which allow you to communicate findings more persuasively if you use the right tool. In an earlier post, I described the Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) Matrix model  and how I used this to set the marketing stage for an acquisition some years ago.

Another great analytic tool is personality profiling. Most often companies study their competitor’s management team or key employees such as the head of R&D. Usually their strengths and weaknesses follow them from job to job. It’s good to understand their predisposition; what mistakes they have made in the past; and what blind spots they might have. You can obtain the intelligence to develop personality profiles easily enough for executives in publicly held companies since you have plenty of sources such as speeches made to various audiences such as industry conferences and the financial community. It can be trickier to find information for executives running privately held companies. I find that local sources are the best, such as local newspapers and magazines, the chamber of commerce, economic development offices and perhaps their schools. In some cases you will get lucky and locate a chatty employee or ex-employee through a social network such as LinkedIn, Twitter, an industry Ning, forum or association.

Don’t just focus on their professional experience as their personal life is just as important, and often highly influences their professional decision-making. Sometimes you get great intelligence through an executive’s favorite charitable cause or hobby. The non-profit that they make donations to probably has some information on this executive, since they will need this information to pitch their cause to him or her.

My favorite grid for organizing what you need to collect and how to organize it comes from Walter Barndt, Professor and author of User Directed Competitive Intelligence. This is one of my favorite competitive intelligence books since Walter gets the reader to empathize with the user of competitive intelligence, rather than simply describing how to conduct competitive intelligence.

For those who want to read some books on analytical tools, I have listed three favorites here. Just recently, another analytical book, Analyst’s Cookbook, Volume 2 was published by Mercyhurst College for the Kindle. I have not read it yet but see that it’s a short book, less than 90 pages and retails for $4.99. Here is the Amazon connection to purchase it.

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