by Toni Wilson, Cincinnati Chapter, Competitive Intelligence Division
What is, and what is not, competitive intelligence? Practiced correctly, CI accommodates the ability for organizations to be ready for the future, by anticipating changes in the marketplace and avoiding surprises that might blindside our end users and clients, often as they are focused on making decisions and plans based on what the marketplace looks like today.
When we think about our respective marketplaces, we can’t be focused only on how “the game” is played at present. In the future, new competitors will enter the game. They seek to disrupt the way our organizations play the game, so they will move out of turn or invent new moves. Or, the rules of the game itself may change, affecting all of the players. Because of all of this likely change, CI is not really about the competitors themselves, but about keeping our organizations competitive into the future.
Information professionals are uniquely qualified to provide insights regarding the future of our competitive environments because we are chiefly responsible for gathering the facts that indicate change. Fact-gathering is the first step and foundation of every successful CI process, so our role in the process is invaluable. While gathering facts, we see all of the puzzle pieces before anyone else–-sometimes we’re the only ones who see all of the pieces – and can easily put them together to create a picture of the potential future.
A relatable way to explain what CI is, and its value, is by referring to a quote from The Great One, Wayne Gretsky. He often said: “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” We can achieve greatness by helping our end users and clients know where the puck might be going-–what the future competitive environment might look like–-so our organizations can play there, remain competitive, and win the game.
Toni Wilson is the principal consultant at MarketSmart Research Services. She is an experienced competitive intelligence practitioner, having performed hundreds of projects over the past 20+ years, in a variety of industries and throughout the world. Prior to establishing MarketSmart Research in 2000, Toni was a corporate intelligence professional at LexisNexis for more than a dozen years. She is an expert in sources, tools and techniques for intelligence collection, and frequently speaks to groups and coaches individuals regarding the CI process. Toni is a volunteer leader, prolific author, enthusiastic mentor and professional award winner. She is the current chair of SLA’s Competitive Intelligence Division.