Reach out to people for the best & most real-time intelligence

Welcome to another episode of CI Life. In this episode, we’re going to tackle a subject that I think is really important, for basically every CI team that works inside a company. Especially a larger company. Which is the role of internally oriented human intelligence.  And by that we mean, talking with someone versus searching the Web.

Ellen Naylor‘s insight:

Many are too focused on what they can find from “big data,” the Internet and social media–which anyone can have access to who has time and money. If you want to learn what’s really happening, you need to talk to human beings on a regular basis, not just for competitive intelligence, but for anything in life that you care about such as my newfound hobby of birding and my new passions, nutrition, health and wellness. For those who don’t know I am studying to be a health coach at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and I am now half way there at 22 weeks into the program!

I can read a lot about all of these topics on the Internet, and particularly gather great information from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media like Slideshare. However, I gain the most valuable insight, more expeditiously by engaging in conversation with a few people in my vast network of wonderful friends and colleagues.

I have been doing competitive intelligence and research since 1985 and having strong people connections is something that simply does not change. I think it’s even more important today to be connected to people, both inside and outside your company, since that is your competitive advantage. With the high turnover in many companies, it’s even more important to make a connection with new employees who have valuable knowledge.

My friend and colleague, Babette Bensoussan wrote a succint article about “Big Data does not make you smarter.” Babette reminds us that it’s the questions we ask based about data we read, and questioning the assumptions, hypothesis or bias we have, that gives us our competitive edge.

Find human sources to connect with both inside and outside your company by checking out this visual PDF to get you started with your communication reach. Happy connecting!

See on http://cascadeinsights.com/ci-life-35-humint-inside-the-4-walls/

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Markham Nolan: How to separate fact and fiction online | Video on TED.com

See on Scoop.itcooperative intelligence

By the end of this talk, there will be 864 more hours of video on YouTube and 2.5 million more photos on Facebook and Instagram. So how do we sort through the deluge?

Ellen Naylor‘s insight:

Great talk by world class journalist, Markham Nolan, based in Dublin. Here are some of the nuggets: Twitter is where journalists go 1st and raid Twitter lists for good sources; YouTube is a great repository for what’s going on in the world. All sources need to be checked since there is a lot of fake stuff. Free web tools provide great resources for cross-checking such as Spokeo and Google maps.

While there is a great abundance of info on the Internet, it is more important than ever to filter through what you need to find the right stuff, and then verify that it’s accurate. The truth is never binary. You will never be able to remove the human being from the truth seeking exercise, which is what journalists do. So do researchers and competitive intelligence analysts. I guess we have good job security.

See on www.ted.com

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.

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.

18 Tips to Improve Your Telephone Collection Skills

In her recent newsletter, Kendra Lee, CEO of KLA Group lists the worst prospecting voicemail mistakes sales people make. As I reviewed the list, I thought much of it applies to making calls regardless of your profession.

Whether it’s for research, cold calling to collect information, competitive intelligence or win loss analysis, when you instigate a telephone call you are in the sales mode. You want information. In the spirit of cooperative intelligence I have modified these tippers for research and competitive intelligence professionals!

  1. Not having planned what you will talk about in advance. I always prepare a list of questions, but love to start the interview with open ended questions. And often enough this open ended approach renders answers to specific questions, which I won’t have to ask, and we can get to better intelligence gathering sooner.
  2. Forgetting to mention a common colleague or someone who has referred you. Why cold call when you don’t have to!?
  3. Not thinking through the possible responses they might have, thereby missing the chance to probe more deeply.  I like to think about the likely responses, and what additional questions I will ask. This helps me think of entirely new questions that I didn’t think about before the call, based on what the person shares, right on the spot.
  4. Talking about yourself instead of what matters to the other person. People usually like to talk about themselves. It also loosens them up before you talk about the issues you are collecting on. Look them up on social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter or Pipl to gain appreciation of who they are.
  5. Sounding too canned to catch the other person’s attention. Customize each call as much as you can and watch people be responsive unless you have caught them at a busy time.
  6. Speaking so quickly that you can’t be heard. Or worse, mumbling. You want to exude confidence and come across as positive. People like to talk those who are upbeat.
  7. Calling when you’re tired, depressed or not alert. You want to be on top of your game to maximize in collection. If you’re too tired, it’s hard to think of questions and comments to probe more deeply that are outside of your script. You will sound flat and your voice mail will be drippy too.
  8. Not asking if this is a good time for a quick call. You want to let people know that you respect their time!
  9. Not verifying that you have the right contact before leaving multiple messages.
  10. Speaking for more than 30 seconds without letting the other person say anything.
  11. Not showing that you have researched the other person’s situation in your voicemail message.
  12. Leaving a message that’s too short and doesn’t give the other person a compelling enough reason to call you back.
  13. Leaving a message and then passively waiting for a call back, instead of continuing to try to reach the person. (unless of course you find a better source)
  14. Not leaving your name and contact information at the end of the message. Better yet, leave it at the beginning when the prospect is poised to take notes.
  15. Leaving a voicemail with lots of verbal pauses (“ums” or “ahs”) that make you sound less confident, and less credible.
  16. Using a tone of voice that suggests you don’t expect a call back.
  17. Failing to stick to one topic per voicemail message.
  18. Not following up via other means like email.

What tips can you add?

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