How to Predict Your Competitor's Next Move | Forbes.com | By Leonard Fuld
The rumor mill for the iPhone 4S began almost as soon as Apple released its iPhone 4. Better camera, faster processor, bigger screen, fire-proofing, cordless charging…leaps tall buildings in a single bound. The list goes on and on. We now know which of those predictions have come true. But instead of simply guessing, Apple’s competitors could have figured out not only what Apple was likely to do but how well they would be able to execute on it.
How? By looking at the strands of the company’s culture and history that limit and direct its behavior and translating what they found into a strategy map. Designed by Harvard Business School professors Robert Kaplan and David Norton, a strategy map is a relatively simple diagram. It describes how a company creates value by linking strategic objectives to its operations and it provides the key measures of success....
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October 2011 | Vol. 3 Issue 10
FOR THE CI PROFESSIONAL
Intelligence? It's All About the Fundamentals
||By Leonard Fuld
Fuld Gilad Herring Academy of
I recently heard a story about a B-school class in which the professor carefully sketched out Michael Porter’s Five Forces on the white board. After explaining it briefly, one of his students asked, “Isn’t that model part of competitive intelligence?” “No,” answered the professor, “CI is similar, but far more complicated.”
Whoa! It appears the professor did not have a clue about the subject and just soft-shoed his way to another topic as quickly and as deftly as he could. The professor’s challenge is the same as most managers when they first encounter competitive intelligence: they are unable to answer questions such as ‘What is CI?’ and ‘How does it relate to what I already know about business and my competitive environment?’
Perhaps the fundamentals are not so fundamental after all. Most of SCIP’s members would benefit by revisiting the fundamentals [again], as would lots of other executives who are exposed to superficial magazine articles on competitive intelligence that only scratch the surface. The CI community and SCIP membership needs a common CI language, a set of definitions. And, it’s important that CI professionals learn those critical definitions early in their careers so they can confidently and effectively promote the benefits they bring to their organizations through CI. (Not to be confused with the “competitive intelligence” phrase many database and software companies gratuitously insert into their advertising just to attract attention.)
So what exactly are the competitive intelligence fundamentals? The answer is that several interconnected topics help form the basics of the discipline of CI. During the CI 101® course—part of the SCIP CIP™ Certification conferred by The Fuld Gilad Herring Academy of Competitive Intelligence—we help bring all of these topics together in an exciting and enjoyable way.
Topic 1: What the heck is Competitive Intelligence?
Here, we dig into the multiple preconceived notions, dogma and Webster definitions that participants bring with them into the classroom. Some have no idea what CI is, some have complex and even obtuse definitions and others offer simple one-word phrases such as “actionable.” CI 101 helps deconstruct the myths and provide an industry-standard definition and common understanding. Then, we offer stories as business examples, so no matter what the official definition, all the participants get it. This makes the definition memorable, not just a rote exercise that you parrot back to the instructor or write on an exam.
Topic 2: Ethics
“Oh yeah, my company has guidelines.” Really? And do you know what those guidelines are? Are they realistic? Do they make sense? As a CI professional, you need to understand the boundaries, stress test the limits and appreciate how to distinguish between normal and potentially unethical behavior. Reading SCIP’s guidelines is not enough. You need to hear what practitioners in other industries feel is out of bounds and then determine what is right for your industry and your company. The ethics session of CI 101 drills down into these limits and asks the difficult questions. There's nothing easy or simple about these fundamentals.
Topic 3: Sources
Reviewing a list of resources teaches you nothing about how to collect vital information. Clearly the B-school professor mentioned above read some article referencing the subject of CI and was confused. Intelligence collection requires wrestling with the process, inventing new ways to approach finding the information. It’s very important to teach this process—as the Chinese proverb goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” And since the collection process has become more (not less) complicated it’s especially important to be taught how to make this critical component work for you.
While libraries still have meaning, for the most part, the CI professional must turn to Google, social networking tools and the virtual information world. Sure, we all use social networking to some degree. However, there is a big difference between connecting and CONNECTING. Once again, we teach this topic by example. How do you build a phone tree? How do you discover a competitor’s technology shift by threading through a patent analysis? How do you make the most of LinkedIn, Internet Dust Magnets, discussion boards and the like?
Topic 4: Human Source Collection
Ultimately, you must talk with the experts who can fill in information gaps left by Google, news articles, official filings and other low-hanging fruit in the public domain. You have certainly read about the best or most effective techniques in the literature but practicing them in a safe but realistic setting is critical. Yes, I know that some employers say “Here is your CI right-to-hunt for information. Now, go and get on the phone or go to the trade show.” However, good training simulates the real world and helps you expand your repertoire of techniques, teaching you how to tackle difficult, crowded and opportunity-rich trade shows or scientific conferences. Again, this is part of the fundamentals; it’s just not superficial.
So, the next time you hear someone soft-shoeing a definition of competitive intelligence, you can be fairly sure he or she needs to learn more about the fundamentals—and learn from the experts, not just from books. To register for the SCIP-CIP™ Certification courses, go tohttp://www.academyci.com/Seminars/register.html
About the author
Leonard Fuld is a pioneer in the field of competitive intelligence. He founded Fuld & Company in 1979, which specializes in providing business intelligence to corporations to improve their decision-making for strategy, operations and tactical applications. Headquartered in Cambridge, MA, Fuld & Company Inc. also operates offices in London, England. Leonard is also one of the co-founders of the Fuld Gilad Herring Academy of Competitive Intelligence (www.academyci.com ) and is a widely published author. In addition to his latest book, The Secret Language of Competitive Intelligence (Crown Publishing, a division of Random House, Inc., 2006), his articles have appeared in major business publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Harvard Business Review, Bloomberg Business Week, CIO Magazine, Chief Executive, Marketing News, Directors & Boards, Boardroom Reports, Chief Executive and Chief Information Officer Journal.