20 Questions

04 Jun 10 20 Questions

VN_20 questionsEver played “20 questions”?* You win if you ask smart (the right) questions. Successful CI is a little like playing 20 questions.

This is not a new idea. CI literature everywhere stresses the fact that the right answers come from asking the right questions.

“CI, in a nutshell, is the art of asking the right questions to the right sources in the right way at the right time.”

Nevertheless, even CI practitioners sometimes forget to do this. So it is important to remind ourselves of it.

Senior management asks to monitor the competition. And what do we do? Jump into the task and create profiles of competitors. All the key fields are covered. The profiles are well formatted and delivered ahead of time. Unfortunately, management is not satisfied – the unappreciative, grumpy lot!

The reason of course, is that we didn’t bother to ask them why they want to monitor competition. Do they want to fine tune their pricing? Do they want to improve product design or service offering? Do they want to benchmark the salaries they offer? …you get the point. So our profile covers all generic fields about the company and information comes from easily accessible sources such as the company website and publicly available reports.

Sure, at some level, every company wants to do everything better than the competition. However, all companies have specific priorities and pain points at any given time. If you give them competitor intelligence that will help them with strategic decision making, they will keep coming back to you.

So the first step is to initiate dialogue with the users of the intelligence to find out the “right” questions that need to be answered – the “20 questions” that will nail down the needs of the decision makers.

* For those who haven’t, here it is in a nutshell: “In the traditional game, one player is chosen to be the answerer. That person chooses a subject but does not reveal this to the others. All other players are questioners. They each take turns asking a question which can be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No” – only 20 questions in all. If a questioner guesses the correct answer, that questioner wins and becomes the answerer for the next round.”

Varsha Chitale
Varsha Chitale

Varsha led the competitive intelligence practice at ValueNotes. As part of her drive to educate India Inc. on the merits of competitive intelligence, she often conducted webinars and seminars on CI for senior executives of Indian companies.

2 Comments
  • gaurav
    Posted at 16:32h, 23 February Reply

    Good point!

  • Jignesh
    Posted at 13:53h, 15 June Reply

    Varsha
    Great insights on how to do research and CI. I like your style of making what is typically a jargon heavy subject, extremely readable, light and interesting.
    Regards
    Jignesh

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