The Intelligence Rubber Stampers
Washington, DC Sep. 26th, 2006 ---- The world of Competitive Intelligence, some call it Business Intelligence or Corporate Intelligence even though they are quite different, has the same debilitating sickness that infects the government intelligence agencies, that of being a mere verification of the bosses policies.
The corporate heads of America do not want a free thinking radical looking outside of the box to see problems and potential. They want compliant team players who wholeheartedly agree with their overview of the world, their strategy and policies. They want rubber stampers.
The best example in government is Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of War, sorry Defense. His aides make it clear to analysts that they must find justification of his views, or find work elsewhere. It does not really matter if they see a different scenario, it will be ridiculed and ignored.
In industry the same applies. Far too many Competitive Intelligence Analysts are compliant team players who defer to their masters wishes and tell them what they want to hear. When things go wrong, the obediently provide an excuse, which usually includes mention of competitors unfair practices. The ideal situation is for the Masters Pimps to employ the big accounting companies to use overpaid fresh MBA's, straight from school, to create a framework of confusion to support the views of the master. These ultimate eager and young team players are used to direction from their professors, and are used to complying with guidance from above. They know with a little sex on the side they will soon break through the Glass Ceiling and make a nice living for themselves. Such is Corporate America!
Unfortunately whilst the top executives gain by unwavering support, and an ample supply of sleep-over's, the workers, shareholders, industry and country suffers. Sorry to be so blunt, but look around Corporate America and smell the Coffee.
Corporate America does not want to hear bad news, just like politicians. They believe their own publicity and infallibility. When Analysts give negative scenarios a new layer of analysts are added, and added till the required result is obtained, or if not downsized as unproductive.
The news from around the USA appears to be good. The overall economy, as measured by Wall Street and Washington is good. The economy measured by my neighbors is not so good, and in many cases downright bad. True the big corporations are flush with overseas investments. The consumers are buying everything and anything, thanks to easy credit. But real jobs are decreasing and salaries being offered are declining overall. Many highly qualified people are settling for much lesser jobs than they are trained, usually just for health cover. A visit to any doctor is now a complete rip-off!
Add to this the flood of unqualified immigrants with no skills to offer, but lot's of mouths to feed, and maladies to cure, and you have the makings of a crisis. But at the top it's still the days of Marie Antoinette, and they will not hear any negative thoughts that will shatter there executive illusion. The Commander in Chief has said the war is fine, and given them a whopping tax windfall, so they feel justified in believing him, and suppressing any criticism. How can things be so bad when the markets see otherwise.
The media has joined the fray, and thanks to a long string of strategic takeovers can now be relied upon to follow the party message. The few who break ranks and report whistle blowers, or leaked reports can be singled out for direct attack, and labeled as unpatriotic liberals.
But what about the competition? I offered a scenario to one Competitive Intelligence Manager of a very large US company that management were on a dangerous course. He laughed and effectively said that their Marketing MBA' s went to the same business schools as their US competitors, the products came from the same Far East development labs, and were made in the same Chinese factories as theirs. "We know everything competitors are up to!"
"But what about the Chinese?" I asked. "What about them? We send them our specifications, orders, and they work their little yellow fingers off making us rich. They don't have a clue about sales and marketing in an advanced society."
Months later I saw the Chinese product, marketed directly from China in US Supermarket chains. The Competitive Intelligence Manager in question hadn't noticed it, nor cared for he believed Chinese products were inferior to US made products. In case you missed it they were all from the same factory in China, but one was less than a third of the cost of the other. The key was that the Chinese product did not appear on any Google search, and so was not being tracked, or monitored by the US companies competitive intelligence team. Their software couldn't look around supermarket shelves, just look at media reports, and competitors websites.
Their job was to produce glossy reports to validate the decision process of top management for the benefit of shareholders, investors and the compliant trade media, who in return for substantial advertising buys provided glowing reports on the success of this corporation, and others like them. The Chinese declined to be interviewed for they are just the factory that produces product for these smart executives.
Make sure your Competitive Intelligence practitioners know about the rest of the world, not just their friends from college or from SCIP meetings.