Category

Intelligence

Desk with paper and pins

How about putting the phone away as it’s time to think?

By | Intelligence

We live in a world where there is always too much data, a lack of intelligence, independent thinking and empathy for the other person’s point of view. A world where we are all attached to our tiny little screens it is good to take time to think. Thinking in the real world, not just using the latest App or dataset. Decide on a question or two you are looking to answer. Print out articles, webpages and press reports or write keywords, phrases and thoughts on a piece of card?

Cut important items out and spread them on a table. Use a highlighter as you see fit and put them into piles. The choice of how you sort the piles and their meaning is completely up to you. Now take each pile and lay them out in front of you. Sort them again, perhaps chronologically, geographically or any way that feels right.

What patterns are revealed? Are there any patterns? What’s the information telling you? Then, look at the other piles and do it all over again.

Intelligence is more than just collecting data.

So, do you what more answers to the questions you need to ask? Does your competitor possess those two killer things? Get in touch here or follow us on Twitter

What are your competitors ultimate goal?

By | Intelligence

Do you hear that?

That’s the sound of your world changing, of competitors, growing, customers needs evolving and disruption in your market. You can’t avoid or stop it. But you can stay ahead by innovating, modernising, delivering what’s needed, and knowing what could be happening next. Business is hard enough when your industry stands still. Unfortunately, it never does, and those pesky competitors are out to beat you. Sure, short term wins should not kill you, but if you are to outlast them, you need to know what they are up to.

Sit down and take some time to understand what they’re up to and want to achieve. To be successful, they need to have more about them than just make more money. What do the owners want to do, what’s their strategy, what will they need to do to achieve things? An excellent place to start is to understand what your rivals ultimate goal is. It usually consists of 3 things:

  • People
  • Places
  • Things

Collate all aspects of people, places and things.

People

What people will they need to achieve want they want? Are they around and how this compares to what they currently have? Are those skills in your organisation? Is that a threat? How are they going to resolve any skills gaps? What customers will they need? How are they going to get them?

Places

Which markets do they need to enter and which regions do they need to expand? Where will they be when they have achieved their endgame?

Stuff

What equipment will they need? What products will they need to develop? Is the tech available?
How are their R&D and product development teams performing? Will they need more people? What real estate do they need? Now turn the tables and look at yourself. This process may reveal new routes to market. If not, you will know more about yourself and your competitors.

So, do you what more answers to the questions you need to ask? Does your competitor possess those two killer things? Get in touch here or follow us on Twitter

A tiger needs two killer things before deciding to attack

Two things they need

By | Intelligence

For a competitor to decide on an action, they need two killer things. 2 things to enable them to move into a new market, acquire a company, attack your market, enter your country, take your customer etc. They need capability and intent. Simple and true. When assessing what your competitor will do next decide if they have the capability and intent.Both are needed to become a significant threat.

Many companies will have the capability, but the intent is not there; they will not take action, and if they do, they will do so half-heartedly. From micro to geopolitical level if the intention is backed up by capability, their chances of success are higher. You better be prepared for a fight.

Look at Iran and the USA. The USA has the capability but do they have the intent? The Iranians may have the intent, but do they have the capability?

So, do you what more answers to the questions you need to ask? Does your competitor possess those two killer things? Get in touch here or follow us on Twitter

Drivers win

Is it more than just good questions?

By | Intelligence

Drivers tell us it more than just good questions.

You have some great questions, and you are researching and talking to people. Now you will find yourself swamped with information on paper, Evernote, email and your cloud.  Then the realisation hits you that intelligence is so much more than researching Google really well — lots of data and no idea where to start.

It may sound simple, but the next step is to sort all the information into a limited number of piles. Then put them in order. The titles of these piles (or drivers as they a termed), the order they are to be classified and how we determine when we have big enough piles needs to be thought out and agreed. These drivers allow you to develop future actions.

For example, if you are assessing a competitor’s strengths. You need a question like: How serious a threat is this competitor to our market? Your drivers could include financials, product pricing, people, customers, future strategy, marketing message etc. A future action from products pile, for instance, could be “if our competitor introduces that product to that market we will… Or if our competitor increases their price by x, we will…

And then you are a little closer to intelligence to help you make a decision.

So, do you what more answers to the questions you need to ask? Get in touch here or follow us on Twitter

Have an idea what they want to do? Now disrupt them

By | Intelligence

Take a good look at your competitors’ leadership team. What makes them tick?

Starting with the CEO isolate their five big ideas. Alternatively, strategies as they are often mistakenly called. Most leaders will have patterns they’ve followed in the past (maybe not every time). So have their big five ideas changed over time? Are the ideas communicated well within their business? Do other members of the senior team believe in them or do they have other thoughts? Can you exploit this potential discord?

Take a look at what relationships are important to them, which bandwagon are they jumping on and what type of customers are they getting to know. Read what they are writing, listen to what they are saying (and, of course, what they are not saying). Will these big ideas affect your future business growth? Also, you may see signals of a change in your competitors focus. Can you take advantage?

Going darker, now you have an idea what they want to do, can you disrupt their efforts? If you can’t find some big ideas or isolated too many of them does this also tell you a story too? Hopefully, you see Competitive Intelligence is not analytics; it’s not research, its so much more than that.

Inspired by an article by General David Petraeus.

So, do you what more answers to the questions you need to ask? Get in touch here or follow us on Twitter

boy next to a wall What is Competitive Intelligence?

Good to great questions

By | Intelligence

Great questions are the best way to create great intelligence.

However, it’s not just a case thinking up a smart question to catch all about a competitor or market.

You have to guide the decision maker to take action.

What do I mean? Well, rather than asking:

What are competitor X’s main strengths?

Ask it like this:

What can we do about competitor X’s strengths?

Arguably, given time and a greater situational understanding, you will be able to come up with an even better question.

But you will see how a subtle change in the question transforms a concerning situation to proactive decision focused intelligence environment.

And that’s the power of Intelligence.

We have a saying at Octopus “Intelligence is just knowing” so, we offer a daily short and sharp intelligence based thought with an aim to help your day to day work. Feel free to sign up here:

 

www.octopusintelligence.com

 

So, do you what more answers to the questions you need to ask? Get in touch here or follow us on Twitter

Boy in green

Can early warning systems help you?

By | Intelligence

Can early warning systems really help you? Well, if you are going to get a kick in the groin it is always because to see it coming.  So you can get out of the way.

Everyone should have an early warning system. Because it is an excellent way to understand situations you may be facing in the future that can affect you. And then be in a strong position to do something about it – As we know from experience surprises are rarely pleasurable.

So, the first thing to do is map out your competitive environment, think about who you want to keep an eye on and who could be future competitors.

As you can’t monitor everything take each competitor in turn. Conduct an assessment of the impact they have on you and your current/future performance. — The more significant the potential situation, the higher the priority.

Detect Changes

Then take a look at how you could quickly detect and define any changes with each target. Find people in your team who are best placed to find the information quickly.  Have an understanding of the clearly defined signs.

Collate the data you find into a single source (CI software or just a spreadsheet). You will be surprised how much useful information is out there – and how many new questions need answering!

Critically, once you have looked at what they are up to you turn the data into usable intelligence using analysis. Techniques such as Competing Hypothesis or Scenario Analysis are great tools for this.

What can you do about it?

For each piece of insight, you need to decide what you are going to do about it.

For instance, if company X purchases X product, please let us know straight away.  Have a handful of predefined associated actions, one of which could be of course to do nothing.

These actions should take into account the situation you find yourself in and the capabilities and resources you have to hand. For any actions taken it is important to understand how your competitor will respond. Again, making you even more prepared and perhaps unbeatable.

Pretty soon you will be in a position to be able to predict your rivals next move.

That’s why we say “Intelligence is just knowing…

www.octopusintelligence.com

So, do you what more answers to the questions you need to ask? Get in touch here or follow us on Twitter

boy next to a wall What is Competitive Intelligence?

What is Competitive Intelligence?

By | Intelligence

What is Competitive Intelligence?

It’s knowledge about your competitors, your market and your customers which is not readily available. And, it’s the information you need to dig a little deeper to find, often in places people where don’t want to share. It’s asking the questions to get the answers you really want to know. Also, it helps you make decisions and take action relying on more certainty, rather than guesswork and dated assumptions.

So, do you what more answers to the questions you need to ask? Get in touch here or follow us on Twitter

Military Intelligence

Military intelligence lessons

By | Intelligence

Before reading this article, written for the SCIP magazine, you may be expecting many useful Military Intelligence tools and tips. But films and TV don’t offer an accurate reflection of military intelligence.

The reality may seem so much more mundane because the best tools used are your mind, your attitude and simple common sense.

That said, there are many skills involved in the Military Intelligence field which are relevant to life within the commercial world.

The Military teaches us that when the chips are down, instead of panicking, have a cup of tea.

Strap on your pack, pick up your rifle, give your teammates some banter and get on with it.

It may be a British thing, but if you are struggling to find information, have a laugh at yourself. Call yourself a name and get back to it.

Choose the right team with the right skills

The first military lesson is to ensure that you have the most suitable and highly trained team possible to match the situation being faced.

In the military, you would not have an SAS Troop tasked to feed five hundred people.

You wouldn’t give the job of breaking an embassy siege to the Women’s Royal Balloon Corps just because they were around the corner and had just finished another project.

It may sound funny, but this sort of mismatch is seen all too frequently in the corporate world.

Marketing assistants may be asked to look for competitor information or to help find someone to do competitive intelligence for them.

A quick google search may be undertaken with the assumption that this will give enough intelligence.

Quality intelligence, where the right questions are asked. Where the best tools are used, which goes deep and turns over every stone, is the result of many years of training and experience.

The 7 Ps

The military has a saying “Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents “Particularly” Poor Performance.”

This teaches us that real leadership is to ensure you have a well thought out plan which includes a “don’t give up” attitude.

Nevertheless, the military also teaches us that sometimes you have to change your plan when situations on the ground demand it.

If you are unable to do this, sticking rigidly to what you were told to do, then you will soon lose the respect of your team, or worse.

So, if you are trying to collect information and it is becoming impossible, change the way you are doing the research. Approach the mountain of information from a different angle.

Accuracy

Accuracy is a crucial demand within both Military and Competitive Intelligence. Especially if there is a good chance that what you create could be used in the field. In the military, intelligence has to be accurate, or it risks lives. Lives of people and their families you will never meet.

Walking hand in hand with accuracy is common sense and the ability to think quickly and calmly.

You can only do this if you are confident in your ability, are well trained and experienced. The same applies in the commercial world.

Presenting tools

In the military, there is no better example of how important it is to get your message across. To people who need to decide what to and those who are tasked to do it.

Imagine the eve of a battle and the general stands up to address his men.

Armed with Intelligence and a plan, he outlines how he is going to defeat the enemy.

He realises that his troops and commanders will have difficulty in understanding the environment they will be fighting in.

But not to worry, he is prepared. And he reveals a fantastic PowerPoint presentation and a SWOT diagram! Teams have to get into breakout groups. They discuss the plan and isolate what the intelligence means to them.

As you can perhaps understand, this is going to worry the troops, who like to know which way to go and what to shoot at.

As discussed already, the military uses orders, Standard Operating Procedures and they are highly trained.

To keep it simple, the general delivers a succinct, inspiring message. A message everyone understands and replaces the SWOT diagram with something called a Map.

Map are simple to understand and, when in the battlefield, maps can be drawn in the sand with features recreated with pebbles and bits of stick. A 3D map called a model.

From these maps, commanders in the field build models of specific areas and buildings they need to focus on.

The military teaches us all to keep things simple, work as a team and prepare well.  And, in order to ensure we know what to do and where to go, use a map.

Continued.

The full article can be found here and was written for the SCIP Magazine by Graeme Dixon and Darrell West of Octopus Intelligence. www.octopusintelligence.com

A tiger needs two killer things before deciding to attack

Best decisions made with your animal instincts

By | Intelligence

Blink

In his book, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell explores how we process our intuition and instinct and suggests how we make split-second decisions and judgments.  Both good and bad ones.

Gut feeling is an inbuilt reaction which allows us to accurately read a dangerous situation or a person who may wish us harm.

The book offers an appreciation of judgments based on less information rather than more. On expert intuition or instinct rather than the less seasoned novice judgments.

Gladwell suggests that intuitive or “snap” judgments are valuable. And that the more experienced you are on a subject, the more this will allow you to make accurate decisions.

We agree with Gladwell, that gut feeling can be an excellent tool for minor points, life and death experiences. (not too many of those at Octopus towers recently) To give a general direction of understanding of what’s going on, but gut feeling must be backed up by significant verifiable information.

Gladwell introduces the concept of “thin-slicing”.  That’s your unconscious mind’s ability to isolate patterns and meaning within the most fleeting “slices” of experience and impressions.

He gives an example of the ability of one psychologist to predict, with 95% accuracy, if a couple would still be together in fifteen years’ time. According to Gladwell, this and other examples, show how experts can take small samples and make fantastic, accurate predictions.

However, we need to take into account our environment when using gut feeling, as gut feeling can change depending on where you are and how threatened or content you feel. Within Intelligence, if you are up against a deadline, then validated gut feeling is more achievable if you are relaxed, with all the time in the world.

Not as good as we think

Our gut feeling is not as perfect as we might think. Even though, It can be a great tool to deploy when we are trying to analyse what’s going on with a competitor or a market. However, it is not the magic bullet, and we must be aware that our gut feel is exceptionally open to wishful thinking and bias, and this must be taken into account.

The more market and life experience you have, the more this could prevent you using your gut reaction and picking up on those intangible warning signs if your industry changes or new competitors come along.

And yes, your industry can and almost certainly will change; it’s up to you to realise this. That industry experience and know-how should not let you lose sight of how potentially useful your gut feeling could be.

We can take gut feeling into account, as one part of a whole repertoire of tools, but the future direction of your business in an ever-changing market needs considered detailed analysis.

So, whilst we shouldn’t ignore our intuition, we should not make critical business decisions with it either.

Feel free to comment or get in touch here.  And follow us on Twitter.