Political Intelligence


Newsrooms, WarRooms and Corporate Intelligence

No matter how you cut it the American Competitive Intelligence Paradigm is flawed and badly in need of reengineering.

The homogenous cadre of institutionalized Competitive Intelligence professionals will throw their arms in the air and declare the statement insane, clearly from someone who is not one of their members.

Those from Ford, General Motors, AT&T, MCI, ENRON, Global Crossing, the pharmaceutical companies and the long list of household names unable to see the changes in competition and the marketplace until they appear on the History Channel. Like the government intelligence agencies it seems that Intelligence Failures have become a way of life, with suitable excuses and protection for the guilty. It amazes me that those who allow disastrous failures on their watch usually turn up addressing audiences at conferences, encouraging the young and impressionable to follow their methods, achieve similar results, and thereby absolve themselves of being the only ones to screw up.

But all is not lost in failure. When you are on the fertilizer pile you have time to write multiple books on intelligence, and if you can get a contract to "sanitize" the intelligence activities of a government agency, or giant corporation few will ever remember that it was their mistakes, and those of their colleagues that caused the failures in the first place.

I wonder why people shell out hundreds of dollars a year to join professional societies and try and homogenize their thinking. The intelligence function is part of a global War Game. It's not all singing songs around the conference hall, sharing methods and exchanging illuminated parchments containing codes of ethics. The same people present the same papers on the same subjects at conferences ad nauseam. It's the same in the espionage world. The same handful saying the same things. And we have terrible intelligence failures causing the destruction of thousands of livelihoods as a result.

Like the government model corporations are being drawn into the false belief that technology is the only answer. That banks of computers can sift through endless data and come up with the answer. That a young twenty something with multiple degrees can fathom the "Big Picture" that takes years to understand. I have been very fortunate to have worked in many, many countries around the world. This exposure has taught me that diverse cultures interpret the same information in a vastly different way. The years of experience have taught me that greed, deceit, revenge and many other undesirable factors, which don't appear in questionnaires and interviews, play a significant role in decision making.

The years as a broadcaster and journalist have taught me that people tell you what they think you want to hear, or spin their observations to further their cause or agenda. Facts are very often changed to protect no one, just to serve their need. Today the misinformation, and disinformation are at epidemic proportions. When you analyze these rosy inputs, using be-happy information, you get rosy conclusions.

But technology can only look back at historical events. Count sales, receipts, blue cars or red cars. It can't look a person in the eyes and monitor body language. It can't slip a few notes into someone's back pocket and get information. Oh no! That is against the code of ethics. These same people consider robbing Pension Funds and grossly inflating accounts is OK, but won't allow anything other than simple ethical collection of competitive intelligence data. A software program that scans past transactions is safe, and will not raise red flags against crooked corporate executives, or highlight illegal transactions, or substandard production of lifesaving pharmaceuticals. The last thing many crooked executives want is an efficient corporate intelligence operation, especially one which reports directly to the CEO.

But a new scenario is looming. That the corporate intelligence managers in China and India know more about the American marketplace than the domestic companies. They have access to millions of outsourced files from thousands of diverse companies. By simple traffic analysis they can determine much about such things as supply and demand. Foreign intelligence services work closely with private entrepreneurs, unlike the US where you need a Top Secret security clearance to weed the lawns at Langley. They see that leeching the information from advanced countries is their quickest route out of poverty. The Naive US executives are glad to help them do just that.

These are the same executives that scorn any suggestion to use military intelligence concepts to protect their enterprise. I remember one group, now disgraced for fraud, having a good old laugh, with many references to military intelligence being an oxymoron, when I suggested they create a "War Room" to track their problem.

But there are many times when graphic presentation of all the information, with maps and overlays, suggests a pattern not obvious at first sight. It lends itself to easier briefings, and the graphic demonstration of a solution. Beats the heck out of hundreds of pages of text!

The influence of government, global conflicts and media images must be overlayed to bring in the hidden forces. The decisions made in Washington, DC can affect companies in every corner of the globe. Amazingly few corporate intelligence analysts and private intelligence outsourcing companies have effective insights inside the beltway. Most rely on internet, C-Span and CNN reporting. Few get more in depth, or "off the record" information than the average family TV viewer in their living room. Hardly a basis of multi-million dollar corporate decisions.

Many who spend large sums of money in Washington do so through big lobbying firms, who are hardly the fountains of neutral independent information, without spin or agenda. They lead spin, and the highest billed client determines in which direction.

But can't you rely on the media for a neutral view or informed opinion after long exhaustive investigation and cross reference. For those who don't think this mess with corporate intelligence sounds like the news business think again. What you are seeing in corporate and government intelligence is the mirror image of newsrooms over the last half century. Planted information leading to icons resigning. Faulty computers operated by interns giving misleading data. Manufactured stories for profit, greed, political ambition, revenge and misinformation to cover up crimes and betrayals. Misinformation is government policy! And as for the experienced investigative journalist from the days of Humphrey Bogart. They're gone!

News organizations have fired experienced investigative journalists and replaced them with interns to rewrite the news releases, talking points and packaged video news releases from the spin merchants. Plummeting public confidence in the product and demands for more return on the investment in news gathering facilities, that's the problems we have been facing these last few years. As a News Director I have seen them all, and there is more in the pipeline as the amount of money to be made grows.

Sound familiar. It's time to reengineer corporate intelligence operations before they become like the newsrooms, slanted, irrelevant, sensationalistic and entertainment.

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