27 Jul 10 Competitive intelligence and street lighting
Everyone would like the streets to be lit, but individually, each person would like to avoid paying for streetlights. If my neighbours on both sides put streetlights outside their homes, I don’t really need to put one outside mine. The street is adequately lit. Of course, each resident will use this logic. So, left solely to the residents, the streets will remain dark. The government needs to step in and provide the lighting that everybody really needs and wants.
What does this have to do with competitive intelligence?
The success of the competitive intelligence system in a company depends crucially on the participation of its employees, as most times, some of the best sources of CI actually reside within the company. Further, competitive intelligence is required by virtually all functions in an organisation. But like street lighting, while everyone would like to use competitive intelligence, very few people are willing to commit to contributing to it.
Why else do strategy and planning teams have so much difficulty in getting inputs and MISs from those in sales and operations? Knowledge sharing initiatives often start with a lot of enthusiasm and then die down after a while. Organisations find themselves constantly balancing the carrot and the stick to get information and insights.
The CEO can play a very critical role in ensuring that CI gets the priority it deserves – similar to the government’s role in keeping the streets lit. Naturally, he cannot be expected to do anything hands-on; but if he is seen to be seriously committed to the CI process within the company, the employees will take it seriously too.
An obvious and direct way is for him to ask to see the intelligence on the basis of which decisions are taken within his company. He can also send other, more subtle messages to his organisation through his communications. Talking about it informally in social gatherings, asking his senior managers incisive questions on the business environment, bringing it up in a blog on the intranet, mentioning it in a speech to the employees, etc. are some of the ways in which the CEO can usher in a CI culture within the organisation.
What are the other things CEOs do to strengthen CI processes in their company?