Communication

September 17, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments
Most CI professionals are familiar with the standard competitive intelligence cycle (although you will often see variations). Typically the steps are given as:
  1. planning & direction i.e. the boss – also known as the end-user 🙂 tells you what is needed and you or they work out how to get it;
  2. collection – you follow your plan;
  3. processing & analysis – you integrate the gathered information with other information to convert the information into something usable i.e. intelligence;
  4. dissemination – you pass back the intelligence to the end-user and hope that they act on it.
Those who know me will know that I disagree with this cycle. There are a number of things wrong with the model – for example:
  • the model lacks feedback steps;
  • it doesn’t integrate with other business processes adequately, such as the strategic/business planning cycles;
  • it doesn’t allow for serendipitous intelligence gathering crucial for effective early warning systems.
There are others, and when I teach CI I always highlight the problems, and also present alternatives. (For example the 4Cs model described in AWARE’s brief guide to competitive intelligence)

My focus in this item however is the use of the word dissemination. The Encarta® World English Dictionary defines disseminate as “to distribute or spread something, especially information…“. Most other dictionaries give similar definitions. The problem with this word is that it implies that information flows one way – from the collector to the end-user. There is no mention of information – feedback – flowing the other way or laterally throughout the organisation. Effective competitive intelligence needs an information sharing culture where information flows between those who have the intelligence and those who need it – each informing the other. The English word to describe this process is not dissemination, but communication.

The Encarta dictionary has a number of definitions for communication and the verb communicate. Communication is defined as “the exchange of information between individuals, for example, by means of speaking, writing, or using a common system of signs or behavior” while the second definition for communicate is “to transmit or reveal a feeling or thought by speech, writing, or gesture so that it is clearly understood“.

Isn’t this what we aim to do in competitive intelligence: not to disseminate intelligence without any feedback or even knowing if the intelligence is usable, useful or understood but to communicate it so that both parties clearly understand its impact and importance?

The problem is how to communicate intelligence so that it is understood, and used. That, however, will have to be a topic for a future blog entry.

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