For those not familiar with CI, CI is competitive intelligence. Defined by the SCIP – Strategic & Competitive Intelligence Professionals as: “Competitive intelligence (CI) is the process of monitoring the competitive environment and analyzing the findings in the context of internal issues, for the purpose of decision support.”
Literally, keeping leadership informed on everything they need to know to keep the business competitive and successful. CI according to that definition needs to know how everything in the company works, everything that happens inside and outside the company relevant to the business, what the needs, expectations, and desires of leadership are; and what needs to come to the attention of the decision makers to make informed decisions. Good intelligence often has summarized analysis, options, recommendations, and the risks and consequences associated with them.
The CI Mind
Competitive Intelligence professionals are smart.
Let me take that back. CI professionals are VERY smart. They are up there with scientists and engineers. They tend to be very technical, precise and wonkish (technically pedantic). So just like scientists and engineers they tend to be very good at what they do, understand all the details, intricately comprehend the value or their work, and can’t fathom why anyone wouldn’t appreciate and understand their work and utilize it properly.
But there is a problem with being the smartest guy in the room.
The Executive Mind
Now consider for a moment the typical executive mind. They are obviously smart and good enough to get and keep the job, they are not dummies. The average executive is equal parts arrogance, ability, overworked stress and insecurity from fighting to get and keep their job. Most executives are not trained or groomed for the position. The get promoted on merit and do their best to keep up (Google “Peter Principle”). Most of the execs I’ve worked with put in 60 — 80 hours a week, answer several hundred emails a day, and have to keep track of several hundred responsibilities and issues, including little things like budgets, hiring and firing, responsibility for profit and loss, and surviving competitive internal politics on top of competitive business. They answer work emails on their blackberries on nights and weekends. Its always interesting to see a string of emails that started at midnight, bounced between 10 people in the middle of the night and hits you in box at 4am with a note from your boss saying — “Urgent, address this first thing when you get in the office.”
It’s a very hard job, but good for workaholics, and many use perks like golf meetings, lunch meetings, generous vacations, Marriott points and big bonuses to manage stress.
Here’s the point, say you are a experienced executive, you’re under the gun trying to compete and and prevent layoffs in a difficult economy. The CFO keeps beating you up on your budget, the VP of HR is hounding you to get evaluations out, and the CEO wants to know why your group isn’t performing as promised. You are under tremendous pressure and have plenty to lose (all the perks and that great salary).
Then some geek from some dark corner of competitive intelligence walks in, quickly compresses 6 months of research and analysis into a 10 minute power point summary, and then expects you to do something with it. You think there’s probably something to this, this CI guy is certainly smart and could probably do your job. And worse, while you’ve spent the past few months in meetings and fire fighting, here’s some genius analyst that had the luxury of a few months to figure out everything you’re probably doing wrong or ignoring.
How do you take advantage of this without looking stupid? How do you explain this to anyone else when you’re not quite sure you get it? How do you maintain authority if you start asking CI dumb questions? How the heck do you know you can trust this CI? Where did it come from? Is it worth risking your career to stick your neck out acting on this intelligence you barely understand done by somebody you barely know?
Even worse, say the presentation is done to a room full of competitive and nervous executives. Nobody wants to appear stupid or weak, executives already know everything right? So everybody pretends they understand, talks around the issue, and unless they are part of a very progressive and sophisticated corporate culture, odds are their best self interest is to simply ignore the intelligence report after the meeting, maintain the status quo, and hope either it goes away or the CEO does something with it. Acting on it is not worth the risk, even if it looks good.
Source: Ted S Galpin, to continue, link.