Understanding Political Intelligence
Washington, DC. Dec 8th, 2005 ---- "Why would a Hedge Fund, or a company for that matter need to know what politicians are doing in Washington" was the question from a visiting broadcasting executive. The argument was that there is no need for competitive intelligence, nor corporate intelligence, just business intelligence. The only thing that matters, according to this executive, is to find out the needs of the marketplace and give it to them, which of course is business intelligence.
The beauty about business intelligence is that it is easily measured, quantified and turned into a simple metric that can be computerized and automated. It is Sales Forecasting by counting how many blue or red widgets customers purchased in the past and identifying a trend, to predict the future. Companies such as General Motors believe they are experts at predicting what the customer needs, and hence the 30,000 layoff and failed pension plans.
Political Intelligence is very much like Competitive Intelligence and can't be easily measured and turned into an automated process. Some Snake Oil salesmen will sell you computer programs, but these merely aid in collecting published data, and giving a better visualization of the result. Of course if the relevant data isn't published, or if there is a misinformation screen to mask the true data then you are screwed.
In management we don't like surprises. We like to think we are on top of things and know what is going on around us. That is especially true with government and military intelligence. We don't like people messing up our predictions with their opinions. So in government and global corporations we like technology to be finding out what we believe to be true. We will even interpret this these technological findings to suit our beliefs. No human can then say "You misunderstood Sir." Business Intelligence is especially malleable in that respect. You get the computer programs to look at just what you you need them to observe. Same with reconnaissance satellites, ELINT programs and the rest of the expensive spook technology used by governments. You can't say "We spent $20 billion on this baby and it can't find out anything!"
So politicians have become experts in molding intelligence to meet their particular needs that day, regardless on the abilities of technology to give them the information they require. The same with top executives of big corporations. They know they have a sweetheart of a deal and will get out of accepting responsibility for their lies and mistakes, and make a lot of money in the process.
This is where the black art of political intelligence comes into play. We look at the body politic and decide if the bastard is lying again. We know he has succumbed to the forbidden fruits of some lobbyist or another, or has a hidden agenda for after his short spell in the limelight of Capitol Hill, or the White House. We know that the key advisors, Chief of Staff of the Committee, or key procurement or political staffer is going to work for some company or organization once they have "fixed" the contract, or legislation. In most countries it is known as corruption. In America we call it a "Revolving Door".
If Corporate America spent more time looking at the personalities and their backgrounds instead of their resumes and paper qualifications, then they wouldn't be blindsided so often.
But back to our Broadcast Executive. He was in DC to talk to a number of lobbyists about the question of a la carte choices for cable television. He had just found out that the channel that paid him such a whopping high salary might go under if viewers had a choice, and it was not bundled with lots of others. He was appalled at the number of lobbyists involved in the debate, the amount of money they demanded to try and influence the outcome and the the bad publicity being spread by the liberal news media. Bundling is the Constitutional right of all media moguls, who cares what the public thinks.
Now Powell slanted the FCC towards the broadcasters, even some say by falsifying the findings of the costs estimated in reports on a la carte choices for cable customers. Well look closely at most reports around DC, they are written with an end result in mind. Many start with the conclusions first, then employ Ph.D.'s to fill in the body of the report, to ensure the conclusions are met.
You can't automate that knowledge. You can use automation to help build up the databases, but in today's popular idea of metric driven corporate intelligence you won't find many references in published information admitting that politicians didn't tell the truth, or admitted they were wrong about anything. Example for thirty years I have been telling people that the Gulf of Tonkin Incident was a fabricated lie, and that McNamara and Johnson lied about the attack on the US warships. I have nearly been lynched by ultra right wing "Patriots" on many occasions, and accused of being an Stupid Ignorant @@@hole and Conspiracy Theorist believing in Little Green Men. Well both NcNamara and the NSA have come out and admitted it was a fabricated lie after all, and tens of thousands died, or were maimed for life believing it.
That may seem light years away from a committee decision about bundling cable TV programs, but it's all political intelligence. PI affects our everyday life, and business success far more than we dare admit. From taking our best salesmen, workers and emergency responders off to fight a fake war in Vietnam and Iraq, or to do a back room deal for political reasons that will destroy a whole industry. We should watch politicians, and industry leaders for that matter, far more carefully.