25 Jun 10 Looking within

Looking within

There is deep wisdom within our very flesh, if we can only come to our senses and feel it.  ~Elizabeth A. Behnke

No. I am not about to launch into a philosophical discussion. I am actually still on the topic of competitive intelligence.

When we think of sources of intelligence, we often look outward for inputs from outside our organisation. The assumption being that if the organisation does not know something, it cannot already be inside the organisation.

In actual fact, a very large number of people within the organisation constantly come into contact with the outside world and gain insights on different aspects of their business environment. Sales and marketing teams, of course, have the maximum interaction with the external world. They meet customers; attend trade shows; and interact with distributors and retailers. Other employees also have external interactions. They may be members of industry associations, alumni groups of educational institutes, professional organisations (HR, Engineers, Accountants, financial analysts, lawyers, etc.) and so on and network with other members. They may be interacting with suppliers/ service providers. They have neighbours, friends and relatives who could be connected to the competitive environment of our organisation….   You get the idea.

The organisation itself is a rich source of relevant information that CI teams in the organisation would like to collect.  It is possible for CI teams to develop frameworks for regular capture of intelligence from internal sources. However, not all companies actually do this systematically. So why don’t they? Why are the internal sources underutilised?

There could be several reasons. First, employees who have nuggets of information do not often realise the value of what they know as it does not appear significant in isolation. For this reason, they don’t bother to communicate it within the organisation.

Secondly, internal employees are focussed on their own KRAs, and have little direct interest in proactively cooperating with other teams. Or other internal dynamics (read politics) within the organisation discourages cooperation between different functional teams.

Finally, information from internal employees could be biased in different ways.  For example, the sales executives have an interest in underestimating the market size, so as to make their own market share look good. HR executives may have an interest in exaggerating the attrition rates of the industry peers to make their own attrition look good. If there any doubts about the objectivity of the internal inputs, CI teams may want to independently verify these inputs.

One of the ways for an organisation to get to the knowledge within is to get an outsider to look inside it. This is the reason why some organisations get an external service provider to debrief its own employees.

However they choose to do it, the old wisdom of looking within applies to organisations.

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.

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