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Fictional detective Sherlock Holmes is frequently quoted in forums and blogs related to competitive intelligence (CI). After all, he was obsessed with data. In The Boscombe Valley Mystery, for example, Holmes says, “You know my method. It is founded upon the observation of trifles.” He isn’t demeaning the value of these bits of information; he is, in fact, emphasizing that the accumulation of meaningful data—which on its own might appear innocuous—is what enables him to make his brilliant deductions and solve ‘unsolvable’ mysteries. No wonder CI professionals find inspiration in his words. Yet, as valuable as competitive intelligence is, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review cites a study of CI managers and analysts that found that rather than fueling better decisions, competitive intelligence is often used to “ratify” pre-determined courses of action for nearly 33 percent of those surveyed. That’s the equivalent of Holmes deciding who is guilty and then only paying attention to clues that support this foregone conclusion.
Knowledge is power in today’s world and gathering the most effective and relevant data is pivotal when making decisions. Inc. has identified the most useful tools for collecting the best competitive intelligence, some of which include:
Honing in on what you want to discover is pivotal to any successful competitive intelligence report. Finding out every detail about competitors or the marketplace is not nearly as effective or productive as having a specific question or problem to investigate.
There is a lot to learn from your competitors such as what type of talent they are hiring, pricing structure, turnaround time and so much more. All of this information can help you identify potential trends in the market and where the industry is heading as a whole.
A Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professional, Garrison, encourages companies to use comparative analysis. His recommendation, “Hypothesize several possible outcomes to the original questions. List the various data points you have collected underneath the hypothesis each one supports. Continue doing this as the operation continues. After a while, the data should start stacking up under one hypothesis, pointing towards the answer.”
Sherlock Holmes frequently expresses frustration when ‘officials’ make suppositions and then only pay attention to the clues that fit their preconceived notions. It is critical to explore all relevant competitive intelligence gathered in order to solve the competitive intelligence mystery and create a successful strategy.
1. Check out other posts about competitive intelligence on our blog.
2. See how CI pros use Nexis to uncover market insights, relevant news and more.
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