Things are changing so fast today there are three worlds in simultaneous
transition:

3 worlds1. Your organization’s world
Market conditions shift constantly and sometimes dramatically. Revenue
streams and profit margins sometimes require compensation and
adjustment in real time. Greater speed and responsiveness to
opportunity is a significant asset. Talent acquisition and development
is becoming critical due to technology advances.

2. The world of your
customers, members, and partners
The people you depend upon are themselves
struggling with market pressures. This means they are constantly
reevaluating expenditures, shopping for new value, vigilant for a
better proposition, innovation, or seeking a more advantageous
relationship.

3. Your
Industry’s world
New technologies are upending stalwarts. Take
a look at the newspaper industry. Once it had the corner on daily
doorstep delivery of information. Today daily has become 24/7, doorsteps
have been replaced by pocket delivery, and information dissemination
has forever left paper behind as a sole channel. The same thing is
happening to space exploration, services including education and
customer management, manufacturing, agriculture, and even intelligence.
Hardly a sector is untouched.

Until recent years, at least one of these worlds
provided stability when the other two shifted, and the fluctuations
were episodic – heading toward eventual equilibrium. But today all
three are in motion simultaneously and all signs point to continuous
change. Game changing is becoming the norm. (See my Fast Co piece, 10 Patterns in our Continuously Disruptive World.)
You have to become proficient at innovation, transition, and
transformation to stay in the market.

CoyoteOne tool quickly becoming indispensable is competitive intelligence. Every
leader should be conducting a systematic effort for the early
identification of risks and opportunities in the market before these developments become plain to
see
.

This includes the examination of market
statistics, financial reports, and news with the goal of yielding a competitive
edge.

There is (a) strategic intelligence – looking at
long-term growth strategies – and (b) tactical intelligence – driving
revenue in the short term. This is a non-negotiable in my mind, for
success in our rapidly changing world. Yet recent studies indicate that
intelligence is at the bottom of the priority list when it comes to
safeguard expenses.

Although big companies have been using competitive
intelligence since the early part of the 20th century, it is a
relatively new field with the first major work on the subject published
by Michael Porter in 1980, Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing
Industries and Competitors
.

Where do you go for this kind of service? On the
one hand, it takes
a professional with some experience to make the best effort while
minding the letter of the law. On the other, sources are often
right under your nose including your staff members, customers, other
stakeholders, thought leaders in
the field, news aggregators, and the Internet. I have been able to
gather a good deal of useful information for my clients for years
simply by tapping these sources with a systematic approach and a bent
toward establishing a competitive edge.

Two
common misconceptions about Competitive Intelligence:

1. It’s all
about competitors.

While understanding the competition is important, it’s only one piece
of the puzzle that also includes understanding industry trends, market
responses, and even the field of innovation: the white space yet to be
occupied.

spy guy2. It’s illegal.
There are clear boundaries and they have to be observed, but
competitive intelligence is far from illegal. Unlawful practice goes by
a different name, industrial
espionage
. There is a great deal that can be done within the
bounds of the law and savvy leaders make use of it. The whole idea is
that you are gathering publicly available information and extracting
trends and opportunities before they become clear to the masses.

Wall Street JournalA
great example of Competitive Intelligence is published every day in
periodicals like the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg Business Week, the
Financial Times, and Fortune. These organs collect specialized
knowledge that is publicly available and deliver it to a select
audience that scrutinizes the stories and data for marketplace
advantage.

But, when you pick up a copy of one of these
business publications, you are getting news that is formatted for a
couple of million readers, very generalized. Imagine what it would be
like if you could identify, collect, analyze, and leverage intelligence
about the specific services, products, customers, members, partners,
and market spaces that are available to you. That’s competitive
intelligence.