Competitive Intelligence: Separate Knowledge from Belief
Many CEOs think that CI is bunk and that all the information they need on the competitive environment is already a known factor or can be found through internet searches. These CEOs often can’t see beyond obtaining the sales objectives of the current quarter.
The problem is that these senior executives are like a hamster on a treadmill: running hard and going nowhere. Focusing on short term objectives means you cannot anticipate changes in the market such as the development of new products, demographic and economic changes, and the development of disruptive technologies. Not knowing what is going on in the competitive environment leaves you open to being blindsided.
Learning from the “Pentagon Papers”
Two popular beliefs regarding the US involvement in the Vietnam War is that the US aim was to defend South Vietnam from communism; and to prevent the “domino” effect, that is, if South Vietnam falls to communism then all of southeast (including Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia) will fall like dominoes into communist domination, specifically from China.
Both beliefs are false.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) made it quite clear around 1964 that if South Vietnam should fall, there would not be a domino effect, that the US would still exert substantial power to prevent further communist advances into Asia, and that a united Communist Vietnam would revert to its traditional hostility to China. (Pentagon Papers, Chapters 5 & 6) Only the generals and some influential right-wing politicians believed in the “domino” effect and their blind belief held sway. This led to long, bloody war in which millions died unnecessarily.
As for helping South Vietnam, when seeking to apportion the importance of US objectives, only 10% was given to helping the people of South Vietnam, while 70% was given to protecting US prestige as a world power (Pentagon Papers, Chapter 5). So the Vietnam War was not about helping South Vietnam or fighting communism so much as it was about US prestige and self-importance.
And yet the war continued on based on false premises – a situation that occurs often in human affairs.
What happened within the government of a super power often happens within companies, where strategies and tactics are adopted based on delusion and blind belief and not on intelligence/knowledge.
Knowledge Versus Belief
Competitive Intelligence is knowledge based on cold, hard facts that can be applied to developing short-, medium- and long-term objectives regarding all areas of your company’s operation: product and service development, marketing and sales, distribution channels, strategic alliances, mergers and acquisitions, developing and/or adopting new and emerging technologies. It provides a dynamic and ever-changing picture of the competitive environment that can be used as a guide to meeting the changing demands of the market place.
Belief is static and does not adapt easily to changes in the competitive environment. It is not based on facts but may be based on wishful thinking, which can be disastrous.