Ad-hoc vs Monitoring
Imagine if you tried to navigate a busy street but you could only see and hear for 5 seconds out of every minute. Would that be a safe way to travel? No, because the situation would change too fast, and with far too great of consequences to be safe. Think about how most companies conduct competitive intelligence research: short ad-hoc projects designed to provide a snapshot of market and competitor activity. Useful for sure, but it is much like navigating a busy street with limited vision and hearing. For this reason, it is imperative that organizations continuously monitor the competitive landscape. Persistently watching and listening provides the organization with critical situational awareness of threats and opportunities.
Smell, Taste, Touch
If we, as CI professionals, are the eyes and ears of the organization, then what about the other three senses: smell, taste, and touch? Think of these senses as the organization’s external facing workforce:
- The field salesforce that interacts daily with customers
- The researcher or scientist attending a conference
- An executive attending an industry networking session
These are just a few examples of how and where the organization’s workforce can provide additional input and insight into the market and the competitive landscape.
The Nervous System
So how does all this information make its way to the brain where it can be processed, analyzed, and used to support decision making and inform situational awareness?
That is where the nervous system comes in. The nervous system is the conduit that connects the senses with the brain. It is a superhighway, carrying information from the senses, to the brain, and from the brain to the body. For this analogy, the nervous system is made up of the various technology platforms that enable the organization to communicate and share information; it includes the organization’s file repository, intranet, mail server, and social / collaboration tools.
In the same way the senses need a means to communicate with the brain, and the brain with the body, without reliable technology platforms, organizational knowledge can often become siloed, lost, or bottle necked, preventing the information from being delivered to the brain in time to support effective decision making. When the flow of information from the senses to the brain is interrupted, it can result in organizational paralysis, necrosis, or even death.