I would like to lose a few pounds. It would make me feel better, my pants would not be so snug and my blood pressure would go down. You would probably agree that these are laudable goals. So, a remarkably bad idea for me is to go somewhere that they serve chips and salsa. Or pizza. (Or a few other things.) It is just that certain things attract me so strongly that consuming them in moderation is difficult. Thus, because I cannot avoid these temptations, my weight loss goal is especially hard to reach (but I do enjoy mealtimes).
Of course, these foods are not completely bad. Maybe if I ate a few chips or only one slice of cheese pizza, I would do better. Perhaps I could eat other healthier foods more often and combine them with better exercise habits. I need the whole package to reach and maintain the correct weight. Whatever else I do, I especially need to be aware of the common pitfalls to avoid (goodbye to deep dish pizza).
In competitive intelligence, it is my experience and observation that we have pitfalls that inhibit us from reaching the desired goal. That goal, in my opinion, is to help strategy leaders make better decisions. Nevertheless, the pitfalls distract the competitive intelligence professional from usefully satisfying the needs of strategy decision-makers.
Here are my five (least) favorite pitfalls that should be avoided. I wonder if you agree with me.
- Gimmick analysis. There will be some argument with this point. However, I do not think that most senior management people are enamored with clever search skills or the latest Twitter details. Many competitive intelligence professionals, on the other hand, seem to spend a lot of time on such cleverness. It is seductive, for sure, because it is immensely interesting to find information that hitherto fore was unreachable. But, when we feature this type of “analysis,” senior management often dismisses our potential valuable contributions.
- Pretending that the competitive intelligence function is important. Frankly, it is not important. At least, as a separate function, the value of its existence is shown regularly to be minimal. That does not stop us from asserting that all progressive companies should engage in competitive intelligence. No, they should not because they have businesses to run, decisions to make and goals to reach. Competitive intelligence is only important only to the extent that it helps senior management in those three ways. We are needlessly fooling ourselves to think otherwise. Senior management values value not functions.
- Working timidly. Most people should not be in competitive intelligence. In particular, many analytical (introverted) types are ill equipped to fight the right fights within the company. The dirty secret that new people to competitive intelligence should be told is this. Unless you are prepared to stake out positions, argue them with powerful people in an organization and withstand all types of personal and professional criticisms, you are going to fail in competitive intelligence. It is better that these folks move to some other role.
- Expecting too much. In my experience, I am amazed at how little senior managers understand about the competitive environment. Many cannot adequately characterize the major competitors, explain how the company strategy uniquely positions it for success or how competitive information should or can influence strategy formulation. Thus, the value that they can reasonably get from the best competitive intelligence is limited by their own understandings. This means that the competitive intelligence person has to be alert to the education requirements of senior management. Missing that realization may cause one to deliver valuable but ultimately unusable information to an organization.
- Giving too much of the wrong thing. This is my personal pitfall. I cannot help giving great amounts of information in pretty ways to busy executives. By the way, I have learned that they do not want, cannot absorb and do not respect this vast quantity of information. They would rather have three things. First, they want understanding of their problems. Second, they want meaningful interpretations of information. Third, they want to understand their options and risks. Everything else should be in backup.
Are there other pitfalls that you work to avoid?