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Things you can do to be adaptive and respond quickly to your business problems

By | Problem solving

Responding to business problems is not easy. But, managing business problems and crises are nothing new. This article discusses things you can do to be adaptive and respond quickly to your business problems. There are a number of things you can do to be adaptive and respond quickly to your business problems. Your response should come down to 7 actions:

  1. Control your mind
  2. Understand the situation
  3. Set priorities
  4. Isolate your options
  5. Create a plan
  6. Get prepared and attack
  7. Manage the information war

It is crucial that you give your mind the chance to process what’s happening to take control of the situation. Focused efficiency is critical in a time of crisis. Hence, leaders need to prioritise the problems they are facing and in an emergency, there is usually no time to make perfect plans. 

Respond to business problems by leading your business

Sooner or later, you will come across a severe business problem encounter some crisis or emergency. Some problems are more serious—others less so and others extremely dangerous. The smallest of issues can disrupt business and create stress and anxiety and stress. Usually, when you have already done proactive thinking and look ahead, you will be better prepared for any problem. 

Yet, many events are challenging to anticipate, and they will take you by surprise. Great leaders, like yourself, excel. While other poor managers go into panic mode, are irrational, and make poor decisions. Regardless of the size or timing of any crisis or emergency, there are consistent steps you can do to contain a problem, reduce the harm it may cause your team. As follows:

1. Control your mind

The first thing you must do when faced with a problem is to create a clear mind and my composed. To take control of the situation, you need to pause and relax and make sure you can see the situation through the fog of war. Even when the walls are collapse around you, try and think rationally. It goes against all your natural instincts which are telling you to fight or flight. If you do neither you freeze. Seek objective guidance from someone not involved in the problem to give you a different perspective.

As the fictional hero, Jack Reacher explains, going for the guys gun in a panic will get you killed. “So stay alive for the next minute and see where you are.”  Slow down and assess the situation, reason away from the chaos. 

2. Understand the situation

Once your mind is in the right place, the next thing is to create a brief and concise description of the problem you are facing. Describe the problem, without going too deeply into the why’s or, critically, who is to blame for the problem.

  • Who are the parties?
  • What is affected
  • Where is the problem happening
  • When did you first know about the problem
  • Why is it a problem?

The answers to these questions will bring the situation you are facing into perspective, giving you a realistic and accurate understanding of whats going on. Also, no one ever said “I wish I did’nt know that piece of vital information before I made that important decision” All problem-solving projects must be lead with great Intelligence.

A rational description of the situation should calm your mind, allowing you to develop a well thought out action plan.

3. Set priorities

You are likely to be facing more than one problem or crisis, so setting the priorities into requires and efficiency and focus. Answering these questions is essential to set your priorities:

  • Firstly, what’s extremely important to resolve first?
  • Then, what’s time-sensitive?
  • What objective information can we gather?
  • How serious is the problem?
  • How urgent is the problem?
  • Also, how fast are things moving?
  • And is the problem going to get worse?
  • Will this problem trigger other problems?
  • Finally, could this problem/crisis be an existential threat?

4. What are your options?

Once you understand the priorities of the, you are in a position to formulate your options, the choices you can make with the resources you had to hand and the outcomes you need to resolve the crisis and/or problem. Defining your desired results will narrow the options down, allowing you to focus more on the strategic detail required and the rights and wrongs of each choice to resolve things.

5. Create the plan

In a crisis, there is no time to make perfect plans. This is usually down to not having sufficient Intelligence to make an ideal decision,. The more Intelligence you have, the better the plan. Depending on the situation you find yourself, you may need to find a temporary quick fix—a fix to buy you more time to find a more sustainable solution. Allocate and deploy resources, produce the action plan, define who is responsible for each role and, and prioritise the required actions.

6. Get ready and then attack

Once you have the plan ready, it is now time to take action and build a consistent pace in attacking the problem or crisis. Ensure you have a few indicators within the plan to ensure you know if the plan is working or failing.

Armies around the world consider an ambush as a crisis. However, soldiers do not sit around building a plan to tackle the rain of fire, pinning them down in their positions. They don’t do the planning at the ambush site because they have decided before leaving camp as many of the potential pitfalls and disasters they could face. 

Within the finest armed forces in the world, the British Army describe them as “Actions on“. In this case:

  • “Actions on ambush” – We will return fire and withdrawn to the final RV”
  • “Actions on enemy fire we will return fire and suppress the enemy to enable us to carry on with our mission.”

Concentrate your time, energy, and resources on the most critical actions. The actions which will give you time and release the pressure you are under. Also, never get side tracked by a new keep new problem. 

Any plan goes out of the window upon contact with the enemy. A true statement, but if you simple actions to complete one at a time, you can keep on plan as close as possible. And hopefully, you will have issued an “Actions On” statement to protect the plan. Keep your team on point and keep them motivated and informed on progress. Good news and actions result in positive feedback. Celebrate breakthroughs and maintain hope. And remember share what’s happening with your team even when the news isn’t great.

7. Manage the information war

Message management is an essential aspect of problem-solving, especially when your problem is crisis management. Without messages, people will be fearful and assume the worst.

  • Watch out for fast-spreading misinformation and rumours
  • What’s reported. And who to and by whom
  • Understand how much information to share
  • And how are you going to share the message
  • What are the needs of your audience

Respond to business problems by defining what messages that need frequently repeated – think “stay at home, protect the NHS and Save lives” and also “See it? Say it, Sort it“. You know these annoyingly effective messages.

Summary

Expect the unexpected, understand that problems can range from utter carnage to something very minor. Managing these situations and the people involved is part of a leaders role. You don’t know when the next crisis is coming, but you will survive, and you will know what to do. So, take action using the suggested format discussed by controlling your mind, understanding the situation, setting priorities, isolating your options, creating a plan, getting prepared, attacking and managing the information war. 

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Knowing your competition inside and out

By | Intelligence Analysis

In this article we aim to guide you to show that knowing your competition inside and out is very important. And, hopefully, showing you Competitive Analysis is so much more than SEO and keywords. 

Marketing people can sometimes get nervous about spying on their competitors and believe its best to just focus on their own business. Some will think that knowing your competition inside and out is a bit unethical, but nothing could be further from the truth when you do it the right way.

A Highly competitive environment

You are working in a highly competitive environment, and you need to know what you are up against. After all, it is highly likely that your competitors are looking at you. If not, then the critical question to answer pretty quickly is – why not?

It’s relatively easy to find the basics on a competitor and even look at their strategies. Start by looking to see how they are performing better than you.

Google Competitive Intelligence and be blindsided

Now, if you GoogleCompetitive Intelligence” or “knowing your competitor inside and out” you will likely be swamped by the latest SEO software claiming to offer Competitive Intelligence. And offering to monitor keywords. Keywords and SEO is only a tiny part of Competitor Intelligence. And in most cases, you don’t need to spend a penny on finding competitor keywords – Ubersuggest from Neil Patel is a great starting point and it’s free. 

Looking at keywords will indeed enable you to improve your landing page performance. Powerful landing pages can significantly increase a conversion rate, while weaker ones can completely turn off potential clients.

Looking at how others in your industry conduct SEO and other online initiatives will assist you in picking up new strategies. Big budget competitors may be keeping landing pages simple or using video. And you can improve your keyword performance. I know its a little boring,

But, these are all excellent ideas, but let’s face it, its all very tactical.

Knowing your competition inside and out with Competitive Intelligence is so much more powerful and yes, strategic.

Be more strategic

Take a look at what your competitor is saying in it’s communication to the outside world. Also, what they are not saying. Ask yourself, does this equate to what they are actually doing and thinking? And, most importantly, what are they going to do next. Questions to consider:

  • What are they writing about?
  • What is their style?
  • Do they have a consistent tone of voice? Can you describe it?
  • How do they engage with their audience?
  • Do they reveal future strategies?
  • Are they announcing new initiatives because the current one is bombing?
  • Are forums and review sites telling you a different story to the official line they are pumping out?
  • Are they revealing how the management team thinks and make decisions?
  • Is about just one person – the founder, or have they gone beyond that?
  • Then provide an answer to each of these questions:
  • How can we take advantage of what they are doing
  • Can we see what they are going to do next?

And, finally, a fundamental question. So what?

In summary

In this article, we have suggested that knowing your competition inside and out is very important. Don’t be fooled into the thinking Competitive Intelligence is just keywords, SEO and other tactical rubbish. We suggest it is about knowing how they think, decide and act. And, what they are going to do next and most importantly, so what?

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Market Intelligence: Profiling The Competition boy looking into a wooden box for an article by Octopus Intelligence. We isolate your problems, reduce risk and uncertainty and deliver intelligence-led answers and innovative solutions. Dedicated to help you win. infloai_Gprl_e56842a8ff53c0b01296e02d0bb740a1

Market Intelligence: profiling the competition

By | Competitor Intelligence

In this article, we offer our thoughts on Market Intelligence: profiling the competition. What profiling is, what to do and what you can do with it.

Competitor profiling is where you identify your significant competitors—researching their sales, products and marketing strategies. And using that information to create better business strategies and improve your performance against them. Therefore, you will develop a deep understanding of each competitor, isolate what you are doing well and what opportunities are your missing.

Profiling the competition structure

Regular competitor profiling should consist of at least the of following four areas:

  • Isolate gaps in the market
  • Create opportunities for new products and services
  • Uncover market trends
  • Ensure your sales and marketing is more effective

Firstly, you need to determine who your competitors are, what their products/services are. Dividing the competitors into the following:

  • Direct – companies which offer products similar to yours
  • Indirect – provides a product which is not the same as yours but a customer solve the same problem – the problem they are currently addressing.

How to define direct and indirect competitors

Like all good Intelligence, it comes down to asking good questions.

Questions like, are their customers precisely the same as yours? No minor differences?

Keep looking because indirect competitors can become direct competitors overnight.

What products do your competitors offer your customers?

What products do they offer your customers? Take a look at your competitor’s product and analyse the quality, pricing, market share, how they sell, what they say about their offering? Also, what channels and resellers do they sell through?

And determine if they are selling on price or quality. And who many do they sell – do they offer bulk discounts? What needs are they fulfilling? What is their pricing, and does it differ on and offline?

Who are their customers?

  • B2B – Who are their key customers? What do they think of them?
  • B2C – What sort of people are attracted to them?

How do they get their products to their customers? Who do they use, and is it efficient? Are they growing or suffering? As well as, what are their sales targets, and how do they compare to their actual sales performance? Who are their best salespeople?

It is no good for your sales team talking to their prospective customers, and they bring up a competitor’s name in a conversation, and they do not record the information to be analysed centrally. Also, salespeople are great at asking the what, when, where and how questions. But finding out why a customer is considering to purchase off you and not the guy down the road is incredibly important.

Likewise, when you lose a customer to a competitor, it is vital to find the reason why they have moved on. It is not usually an “it’s me, not you.” situation.

Analyse how your competitors market their products

Looking at your competitor’s website is an excellent place to start. What are they saying about themselves and their product? And what are they not saying about themselves and their offering? Equally important, how are they communicating with their audience? And their blogs, whitepapers, webinars, analyst calls, case studies, videos, press releases, slide decks, product data sheets and brochures etc. etc. Again read between to the line to find out what they are saying – and not saying.

Moreover, is what they are saying about themselves, the product and service true? Look at the photos they use. What do they portray? And do they have a consistent tone of voice? And do the images reveal anything of interest? Look at the background, as well as, the back end data.

Social media

Also, look at social media and determine who follows them, what sort of person is interacting with them and what is the subject of their content. Is it positive, or are they fielding complaints? Are they engaging with their prospective customers?

Then diving more in-depth look under the bonnet of their website and advertising and promotions. Look at the keywords, the image text tags. Have they missed anything? How does this compare to yours? Do some analysis on them. Nothing complicated. An in-depth SWOT analysis is a great start. Yes, it is simple but often when appropriately done, is very powerful

Conclusion

So to conclude in this article, we offered our thoughts on Market Intelligence: profiling the competition.

Competitor profiling can show you strategic weaknesses in rivals that you can exploit. Being proactive with profiling will allow you to anticipate what your competitor is going to do next. What are their planned strategies? And how they plan to counter changes in your market environment. This knowledge will make you more agile, be able to go on the attack armed with Intelligence to exploit opportunities and make the most of your strengths. You can also stop your competitors dead in their tracks if they try to go for your weaknesses.

Another article on Competitor profiling can be found here.

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Market Intelligence Versus Business Intelligence article by Octopus Competitive Intelligence who solve their clients problems

Market Intelligence Versus Business Intelligence: What’s the difference?

By | Intelligence thoughts

Business Intelligence and Competitive Intelligence are critical in the performance improvement of your organisation. However, Business Intelligence and Competitive Intelligence are very different animals when on their own. When put in the same cage, they can bring huge rewards for your business.

The main differences are that Business Intelligence has an internal focus, while Competitive Intelligence looks at what’s happening in the outside world. Business Intelligence and Competitive Intelligence collects data. Then sorts it into relevant virtual piles within one location. Analysing what’s found and then taking action.

Business Intelligence looks into the business so the main difference with Competitive Intelligence, is that data from external sources. The analysis (the part which most organisation’s skip), creating options and then taking action.  Similar processes, but their benefits differ.

What is Business Intelligence?

Business Intelligence looks inward and is, to varying degrees, well established in most businesses. Business intelligence gathers data on your business from many of sources. Such as like sales, SEO and accounts etc. And bringing it all together to analyse it to make decisions to the allow you to grow.

So, business intelligence looks through the data. So you to make decisions on the improving or creating new tactics and strategies to make your business more efficient and profitable.

What is Competitive Intelligence?

Competitive Intelligence looks outwards and is not as established as Business Intelligence. Competitive Intelligence gathers data on your competitors, markets and external environment (think Porters 5 forces), to give you an understanding of the critical information, and using your findings to anticipate your competitors’ or markets’ next move. You will understand your competitive landscape so much better and improve upon your own strategies and associated tactics.

How Can You Benefit from Business Intelligence?

All businesses will have multiple data sources holding valuable Intelligence for your teams.

  • Your management team will get a snapshot of whats going on in the business so they can make the big decisions on processes, expansion, investment and recruitment.
  • Your marketing team will get an understanding of how campaigns are performing,  article metrics, and website traffic—allowing you to figure out what’s going well and where to invest your time and money in the future.
  • Product marketing teams can improve their product launches and sales development activities, and better target their ideal customers. Look at historical product launches, campaigns and take into account what worked and what didn’t to learn from it.
    • What they are buying?
    • What they are not buying and why?
  • Your sales teams receive better sales figures, so you have a better understanding of which deals close the fastest, average sales cycle times. And which members of the sale team perform the best. Allowing you to improve the sales message, focus on recruitment issues and target sales training needs.

How Can You Benefit from Competitive Intelligence?

Competitive Intelligence can help product marketers can understand what your competition is doing (and more importantly, what it’s going to do).  Research target audience, Marketing message and positioning. Create winning business development tools and deliver significant product launches that stand out and addresses the market’s needs.

One neat trick is if both you and your competitor are about to launch a fabulous game-changing product. With great fanfare, how much better would it be to launch it the day for your competitors? Marketers can take a look at their competitors:

Learn from the competition to enhance their differentiation. Also, it’s not to copy them. But reduce the strengths of the competition and play on their weaknesses. Clearly, sales need Competitive Intelligence to win more tender applications. And to understand why they win. Also why the competitor wins. To better position themselves and win more deals.

To have prepared “landmines” should come across a rival in the market. Using simple and accessible tools such as battle cards and SWOT analysis, sales teams can better position themselves against competitors and win more competitive deals. By understanding their competitor’s current strategy and future moves, the senior management can control the market better. Make better decisions based on Intelligence and not guesswork.

Conclusion

Market Intelligence Versus Business Intelligence. What’s the Difference? Well, we discussed what Business Intelligence and Competitive Intelligence are and the differences and benefits of each one. These intelligence toolsets are clearly used differently. One looks internally and the other externally.

They will, however, impact on all and different parts of your corporate strategy. Used together than you can ensure you are going to win a lot more than loose.

Get ready to put some noses out of joint and get closer to be the market leader with Business and Competitive Intelligence.

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4 ways to deal with your competitors by Octopus Competitive. Intelligence

4 Ways to deal with competitors

By | Competitor Intelligence

4 ways to deal with Competitors

This article will provide you with 4 Ways to deal with competitors

You may wish your competitor would go away. But having them around is good for your business. So don’t be afraid of competition. You have to deal with the situation you are facing advantageously.  You may have similar products to your competitors. However, when you start losing business to them, you only then find they are offering some great things. Yes, perhaps the products are even better than yours.

Then it’s definitely time to deal with your competitors. Having competitors focuses your mind, keeps you on your toes and forces you to go that extra mile. You can also learn many things from the successes and failures of your adversary. And of course, if they have failed at something, you don’t need to go down the same path, when they have spent their money proving it would not work. So don’t be afraid of competition — learn to use it to your advantage.

1. Never underestimate your competition

Competitors may vary in size, experience and capabilities, but they have one thing in common. They all want to beat you. Some of your competitors may have more money to play with than you, but it is usually the smaller competitors who turn out to be more of a threat to you. Small companies are nimble, move fast and can hide what they are doing better.Larger competitors have layers of bureaucracy, pulling them down.

An example of this is that we worked on two projects. One was a fantastic brand with 1000s of employees, and another was a start-up with 20 people in their team—both in FinTech, but not direct competitors. By the time we had gone through the NDA process from the large company, we had completed the entire project for the start-up. Your smaller rivals are in survival mode, and can they may cut corners and take more significant risks. Never underestimate your competitors, especially the little guys.

2. Don’t copy

Some think that the best way to compete with their competitors is to copy what they are doing. It must be right because my much bigger competitor is doing it. Competitive Intelligence is not about copying, but it’s more about creating more certainty that your own path is the right one.

If you copy you just jump on the latest trend and bandwagon, they are following.  And it could be the case that they could have bigger budgets to play with and a bigger team to keep busy. They will not have your drive, experiences and passion, so follow your path but make sure you know what’s around the corner and behind that bush.

3. Don’t play dirty

Competitors can also be partners. Competitors can be s great source of information and sometimes advice. They may play dirty, disrespect, criticise or see you as irrelevant, but so what? They act like this in their market; they will likely treat their customers the same way. Building you another competitive advantage over them.

4. Don’t Ignore them

You cant monitor everyone in the market, but you can’t ignore all of them too. How about defining your competitor landscape something like this:

  • Key competitors – Your key competitors.
  • Emerging start-ups – The next big thing, those who have the potential to become key competitors.
  • Watching – Potential competitors who have the resources to smash a hole in the market.

If you start losing business to s competitor, find out why. Is their product better than yours? Have they made improvements or made it more attractive. Ignore the competition at your peril. It will be disastrous for our business.

The competition will not disappear. Learn to accept it and take it your advantage.

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Epicos interview

By | Guest writer
Epicos interview with Graeme Dixon of Octopus Intelligence.
Graeme Dixon, founder and CEO at Octopus Intelligence, gave an exclusive interview to Epicos. Among others, he stated that: “We offer bespoke Competitive Intelligence and Due diligence services, and we have an excellent track record of delivering quality work. From desk research to boots on the ground. We have never failed a client. We get the job done”.

Epicos: Graeme, can you please introduce to us Octopus Intelligence?

Certainly. Octopus is an Intelligence-led problem solver who has been around since 2009. 
We are UK based, with many of our clients around the world. USA, France, India, Central Asia, Africa and the middle east. 
We offer bespoke Competitive Intelligence and Due diligence services, and we have an excellent track record of delivering quality work. From desk research to boots on the ground.

We also work in partnership with a proven Intelligence software provider. So we can offer a fantastic competitor and market OSINT surveillance tool. We have searched for years to find a software company that understands what they are good at – Software – allowing Octopus to provide the Intelligence end product for their clients. It’s a great combination. 

What are the background and fields of expertise of your team?

I’m Graeme Dixon, the founder of Octopus.
I have a near ten-year track record of British Military Intelligence experience and twenty years Corporate/Competitive Intelligence.  And only the second UK professional to be asked onto the SCIP (Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals) global advisory board, the industry’s governing body. So our reputation and loyalty to clients are the most important thing for us. 

Darrel West is a business partner and a dynamo and is a great relationship director. Former international cyclist and successful business person, he keeps us all on our toes. The rest of the team come from many backgrounds, but we prefer to nurture and develop keen minds with the right work ethic. If you don’t go that extra mile, love what you do, then you don’t work for Octopus. 

Which are the services that your company offers to potential customers?

We offer Competitive Intelligence and Due diligence.

Or to put simply, using Intelligence techniques and processes we solve problems, increase certainty and reduce exposure to unnecessary risk. Whatever it’s called (Competitive Intelligence, Corporate Intelligence, Market Intelligence or business Intelligence) mainly to make it sound smart and mysterious, it boils down to knowing the answer – knowing the answers which will solve a problem.  Unless you have served in the military, people are often confused by the term Intelligence. Some think, its James Bond, others believe its data analysis and others think it’s just research. It’s none of them. 

So for clients, we solve problems, increase certainty and reduce exposure to unnecessary risk. 
Problems usually about how to grow or business development challenges. Their competitors, people, market sectors, products, future and current investments. 

What is the modus operandi of your company to provide clients what they ask for?

We find out what a client really wants to know by defining well thought out questions. We talk, we debate and challenge. 
Collect information from OSINT, primary sources and boots on the ground. Analyse information to create Intelligence. We then suggest options open to our clients. The end product is usually a written report in any format the client wants it in. 

What should a potential customer expect from your company?

That’s an easy answer. Honesty, loyalty and an end product that shows we have gone the extra mile to make it happen for our client. We have never failed a client. We get the job done. 

Which are the procedures and the ethical code that your company follow to guarantee the best services to your customers?

Everything we do is legal and ethical. Octopus adheres to SCIP’s code of ethics. You can still get the information your competitor would rather you did not know using legal and ethical techniques. 

Can you provide us a typical example of your services? 

Every project is different Epicos. But typically it will be a client wanting to know what’s happening (and what’s going to happen) within one of their competitors. They read a piece of PR or lose some business to them, and they want to know why. A competitor may have brought out a new product, and they want to know more about it. Is it going to cause a problem for them? They want to know how to keep winning and perhaps produce answers for their salespeople to use to counter a competitor’s strengths. 

An actual example that is not a case study on our website would be a major manufacturer who had been in business since the 17th century. So, I guess we can call them established in their market. However, the CEO knew that to last another 100 years; they would need to adapt to the changing world. We defined some questions which covered their problems. Problems were mainly surrounding aggressive competitors, how they sold their product and international markets. We created the Intelligence which showed what their rivals were planning to do, the challenges they faced and the options our client had to tackle the markets they wished to be in. 

Now our client has a clear pathway forward, and we have their backs for the foreseeable future. Quickly, another example was a US-based company looking to buy one of their competitors. They wanted to buy their rival because of their technology. We determined the owner was not to be trusted and the technology was getting dated.  They were shocked and put their $100 million back in their pockets. It was a mistake they didn’t make. 

Do you offer turnkey solutions? 

Yes, Epicos, we offer turnkey solutions. We can build an Intelligence section within a company. And, we can create an Intelligence team, purely for a client based on our premises—their Intelligence team our people. 

Do you provide follow up services?

Ideally, the client should see us as an ongoing partner because Intelligence changes all the time. What happens tomorrow does not mean it will be the same next week. So keeping an eye on the situation to ensure the problem does not return, or a new problem has taken its place is very important. But at the end of the day, it’s up to the client and their needs. We have worked with some clients for years. Our software monitoring/surveillance product is, of course, an ongoing service. 

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Thank you, yes. We often hear things like – “we have a graduate who Googles our competitors to see what they are doing”.  
That’s not enough. Of course, companies can do Intelligence themselves. But they can, of course, be blinded by office politics, subconscious biases and the worst of all – industry experience. “I have been in the industry for years, and that’s not going to happen”. And yes, your competitors are likely looking at you to varying degrees of sophistication. 

Lastly, I would like to thank the Epicos team for the opportunity to talk to your audience and wish you well for the future.

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Strategy Cyborgs and Ten Gigasims by Octopus Intelligence. We isolate your problems, reduce risk and uncertainty and deliver intelligence-led answers and innovative solutions. Dedicated to help you win.

Strategy Cyborgs

By | Guest writer

Strategy Cyborgs and Ten Gigasims

This weeks guest article, Strategy Cyborgs and Ten Gigasims, is by the world-renowned business war game authority and creator of Cyborg Strategy™ Mark Chussil. Mark is running a series of free webinars, the next of which is on 27th May.

Link here Frames, Games, and Inspiration

Strategy Cyborgs and Ten Gigasims

My Top Pricer Tournament™ has hit a milestone: It has enough entries from people around the world to run over ten billion strategy simulations. Ten gigasims. (Update: 11 gigasims.) You can learn a lot from ten gigasims. I sure have.

Over 1900 people have entered the Top Pricer Tournament. (You can, too. See below.) They made pricing decisions for generic businesses competing in the generic Ailing, Mature, and Fast Growth industries. 

The Tournament simulates all the unique combinations of strategies — each blend is a scenario, a possible future, a single sim — to see which strategies work best.

Each strategy gets tested in the same 1.9 million combinations of competitor strategies (1.9 megasims) for its industry. That number grows as more entries arrive. It’s “what if?” on the best steroids ever.

Ten stats from ten gigasims

  1. Only one person chose 46 % of the strategies selected. Two or more people chose 54%. 52 people chose one approach.
  2. Roughly 90% of the possible strategies in the Tournament have not been chosen by any human (yet).
  3. The majority of the strategies which were chosen by a single person performed below average. 
  4. But, the best-performing strategies were chosen by only one person. It makes sense: if you want to outperform your competitors, you must do something your competitors are not doing.
  5. Half of the entrants reported that they spent 10-20 minutes making their strategic decisions. A quarter spent less than 10 minutes and a quarter spent more than 20 minutes.
  6. The entrants who thought other entrants would pick strategies “not at all like mine” were wrong.
  7. Extroverts and introverts were equally effective in getting their goals.
  8. Entrants chose widely different strategies to achieve the same goals.
  9. Entrants had widely different performance even when they tried to achieve the same goals. In the Mature industry, the profit/sales ratio ranged from 6.2% to 25.3% among entrants who cared only about profitability. Those ratios are the worst and best averages across the same 1.9 megasims.
  10. It takes about 24 hours to calculate ten gigasims.

Six questions you might ask

Ten gigasims. That’s nice. It’s more than nine gigasims. But what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that the Tournament shows it’s possible to test strategy ideas thoroughly and quantitatively. Those 1.9 what-if megasims for each strategy let us separate those that sometimes get lucky from those that are smart decisions. And then there are the surprises.

Surprises? Aren’t the good strategies obvious? It sounds simple, with generic competitors and price as the only lever.

Everyone who enters the Tournament thinks their strategies will work. We know that because no one says, “I’ve got a good strategy and I’ve got a bad strategy, I think I’ll use the bad strategy.” But performance in the Tournament has varied widely (see #9 in “ten stats”, above).

We humans might think the Tournament is simple because few of us think so broadly about competitive strategy. This HBR digital article, one of six I’ve written that cite the Tournament, tells the story of my personal comeuppance in the Tournament. It fundamentally changed the way I think, teach, and consult. 

Is it artificial intelligence?

I’m working on that. For now, the Tournament contains cyborg intelligence, the collaboration of humans and computers. Humans have the ideas; computers do the arithmetic. (Contact me for information about my cyborg war game webinars and technology.)

Is there a “solution” to the Top Pricer Tournament or to real-life strategy?

If you mean “is there a strategy that will get me the results I want?”, I think the answer may be no. Companies may set unrealistic performance goals, which can lead to big trouble if they don’t know the goals are unrealistic. Moreover, competitors don’t hold still, especially if the results you want cause them not to get the results they want. One of the benefits of gigasims is that you can explore what’s reasonable to expect.

If you mean “is there a strategy that is so good I would not gain by switching to any other strategy?”, I think the answer is yes… but even if there is such a strategy, it wouldn’t guarantee that you will like the results. See the prisoner’s dilemma.

It’s fascinating stuff. Stay tuned.

Do the results apply to my business?

If you hold a monopoly or dominate your industry so thoroughly that competitors are irrelevant, no, otherwise, the thinking and concepts in the Tournament almost certainly apply.

It’s worth noting, too, that the same principles would apply if we had the Top Product Features Tournament or the Top Marketing Spender Tournament rather than the Top Pricer Tournament. The numbers would be different, but the problem and analysis would not.

Can I enter the Tournament?

Yes! You can join the executives, managers, consultants, students, and professors from six continents who have entered the Top Pricer Tournament. It’s free for individuals and some groups. All entries are confidential. You don’t have to be a pricing expert; you have to know what a price is.

And you will receive a confidential report that shows how your strategies performed. Contact me to enter.

 About Mark Chussil 

Mark conducts business war games world-wide, create Cyborg Strategy™ simulators, and teach/publish on strategic thinking. Mark is running a series of free webinars, the next of which is on 27th May. 

Frames, Games, and Inspiration – the description

Inspiration is the offspring of serendipity (something goes boing! in our heads) and judgment (“good idea!”). Just remember: Every bad strategy started life as someone’s inspirational good idea.

Creativity is free, fast, fun, enlightening, and empowering. Its goal is not consensus, although that can be a bonus. And its goal is not even awareness, although that is necessary. Its goal is insight.

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Interviewing The Role of Competitive Intelligence in Top Talent Acquisition

Ten tips towards becoming an expert interviewer

By | Guest writer
Former Boston Consulting Group Principle, Arthur Jones offers his thoughts on interviewing.
Do you need to conduct a series of bespoke interviews for a due diligence, a potential market entry or simply to get a greater understanding of your customers’ business needs? Here are ten tips towards becoming an expert interviewer.

1. Know what the output will look like before you start

This is about being clear about what the survey is designed to achieve. Understanding your objectives is crucial to success, and having a clear idea of the output is an excellent way to clarify this. It also helps in setting expectations with your client or manager and ensures the survey does not miss issues or raise more questions than it answers.

2. Do your research

The more you know before the interview the more productive it will be. If you don’t know the market intimately then research it thoroughly; the players, the products, the competitors, trends and industry developments as necessary.  Make a list of industry acronyms and terminology and keep it close. People appreciate discussing their business with someone who is knowledgeable. You will gain credibility, goodwill and be able to gain greater insight. Remember also to understand the profile of the person you are interviewing as people’s backgrounds inform their views.

3. Have a script but let the conversation flow naturally

People express themselves best when they tell the story in their own terms. What comes ‘top-of-mind’ can provide important information such as relative significance and linkages between issues. Use the script to guide the interview and ensure all the bases are covered but otherwise let people talk. The information you glean will be richer. Which leads to the next point…

4. Don’t be afraid to go ‘off-piste’

Different industries face different issues and the overarching objective is deep customer and industry understanding. If something comes up that expands or explains something that is unique to the sector or the company’s particular situation then this is important insight. Aim to produce an interview that is ‘information rich’. But by the same token…

5. Keep track of the time

A simple point. You don’t want to be coming towards the end of your time with half the survey still to complete.

6. Tidy up your notes immediately afterwards

Few people can capture all the fine detail of an interview in real time. Take time to flesh out and clarify your notes while your memory is fresh. Leave it a day and you will lose information.

7. Do the analytics as you go

If you are collecting customer satisfaction ratings or net promoter scores, do not leave it to the end to crunch the numbers. Trends may start to emerge which you will perhaps want to explore in subsequent interviews. It also will identify if there are any segments such as company size or geographical location underrepresented in your survey and give you time to address this.

8. Try not to schedule interviews back to back

If you come to the end of your time and the interviewee is willing to continue you don’t want to have to cut the interview short because you have another one scheduled. A break also keeps you fresh and allows time to tidy your notes.

9. Be sure to update your contact database

This is a simple point but easy to forget. Log all phone calls, voicemails, emails, next steps and other information.

10. Consider the interview from the interviewee’s perspective

Interviewees have their own situation and interests. Think about how you will approach asking them for what they might consider commercially sensitive information. You may be asked who will have access to the report and on what basis. They may ask to see the report or ask for information in return. Anticipate these and other questions and have answers prepared.
Understanding your market is a fundamental requirement for any successful venture and effective interviewing is an important component of that. Done properly it can also enhance and deepen relationships with key people and be an enjoyable experience for both parties. Happy interviewing!

About the writer

Arthur Jones is an independent strategy and management consultant with deep experience in strategy, organisation, operations and change management across a range of sectors. He has been conducting interviews for more than ten years.
Thank you Arthur.

Intelligence is just knowing…

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Uncertain times article – yes another one

By | Strategic Intelligence

How certain are you?

The phrase “we are living in uncertain times” is used everywhere at the moment, use to sell toothpaste, frozen chips, home insurance, cars and many other crazy things.

Uncertain times trips out of the mouths of attention-hungry personalities,” wannabees” and so-called experts.

But what we have to realise that we always have (and always will) lived in uncertain times. Uncertainty is a fact of life, but still, we get surprised by it.

VUCA

Some may say we live in a VUCA world – Standing for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. And there are many summaries including the Nathan Bennett  Harvard Business Review article and the excellent in-depth piece by in Forbes magazine.

Some try and ignore problems, hoping it will just go away. Ignoring any sign of trouble or worse not looking for it at all.

Fewer people are even looking for the problems, and less are analysing how it could damage them or create opportunities amongst the potential rubble.

The roles of intelligence is predominately about answering questions to solve problems and allow countries, companies and industry to move forward with greater certainty.

Now is not the time to hide in your shelter and hope For the best.

If you do, the last thing you will hear is proverbial rival tanks smashing through your walls.

Other risks will replace this uncertainty, and you don’t want to be in a position where you can’t do anything about it.

We have developed a checklist to deal with uncertainty, and you can download it from here.

I will leave you with the best line these TV experts are sprouting unchallenged out of their mouths.

The world will never be the so again

“The world will never be the same again” – It’s the most pointless statement they can make as they are right.

Always have been and always will be.

Please feel free to download our Risk management document from our website here.

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Competitor prices. Is the price is right?

By | Intelligence Analysis

Competitor prices

You may be in a position where one or more of your competitors are offering similar products to you, but they can do it for a much lower price—Competitor prices offering a cost differentiation which could be turning your customer’s heads. 

It is possible that they are buying the market share, and they will not be able to sustain it. Your sales team may be telling you this too. However, just saying statements about your competitor does not make it right. Buying market share by reducing prices rarely lasts long, and it is not a very smart strategy to attract customers long term. Buying the market happens a lot less than people think.
It is possible that your rivals may hold a significant cost advantage over you. You have to do something but armed with intelligence, not hearsay. Take a look at your cost structure and then compare them with your competitors. Or Benchmarking as its called.
Compare yours and their labour costs, materials, technologies used, distribution, the cost and structure of the sales and marketing teams. Look for usually looking overheads and obvious omissions.

What about suppliers?

What about their suppliers? How do they differ from each other? Their production capabilities and actual production rates. Please don’t rely on what they say in the press. We know from experience what a production plant says it’s producing bears little resemblance to what they are actually doing. Take a look at their past and current sales figures, right down to product level if you can.
Are their products really like for like? Does your product have certain features, but do your customers care about them enough not to switch sides? Also, are the prices really like for like. What about their extras?
Analyse the results and get a better picture of what’s going on, why its happening and then decide what you can do about it. Then tell the world.
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