Monday, August 31, 2009

CI Dog

Freddie was my best buddy for 10 years. Got him from rover rehab, a local penitentiary which trained selected dogs, to be companions for shut-ins etc. At the time my son had been very ill and we brought him home for his 11th B-day. He was a Shepherd and Retriever mix. Beautiful, kind, fun, compassionate. Well, he died yesterday. My CI dog is gone. All good CI practitioners need a CI Dog

Friday, August 28, 2009

CI and the explosion of data - managing continuity

Great article today by Pulitzer Prize winning Robert Lee Hotz in WSJ "A Data Deluge Swamps Science Historians"

Reminds me of importance of having continuity in the CI function to manage its "history" and its "data" and instinctual wisdom - notwithstanding knowledge management systems, wonderful search engines, etc.

There are countless times were a skilled CI person with longstanding leadership in this space can race past all the libraries, databases, peers to the answer if they have been in the right place long enough. What is that worth?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Customer intelligence

I have been participating in a "sales training" program. One of the key tenets is to make sure that rather than "selling" you first always try to understand the "pain" of the person you are trying to help - what makes them frustrated, angry, disappointed, concerned, or keeps them awake at night.

On the other hand, I'm still astonished in this easy-information era at how sellers (myself included) make calls without doing due diligence on who they are calling so that they have relevant conversations, ask questions close to the "pain", and have key facts about the industry, company, person.

The wrong way: Headhunter staff make up to 120 calls/day (< 4 minutes/call and prep for same!)....I've recently disconnected on several who haven't read my CV on line or my Linkedin profile. Told them to call me back when they had. When I lived the corporate world, I received an endless set of calls from information vendors and consultants trying to sell me things I didn't need. I usually handled it by describing specific problems I was working on, asking them to demonstrate how their product or service would help me with that, and how it was better or different from what I was already using. Most couldn't and didn't know respectively. Even ones dedicated to my industry. Short conversations!

You have to ultimately and early on bring to the table the honest admission that you really don't know if/how you can help them though your 45 second pitch will likely include the fact that you often help companies/clients who are feeling pain over x,y,z. Kill the slides. Inquire. Listen. Empathize.

The theory is that none of the following will help you if you don't find the pain. I see truth here, but am with-holding judgment believing that CI is always helpful in engaging highly desired customers.

Your advance CI can help by prepping you to understand (listen to) the context more accurately ahead of time.

1) Have you been to their web site and read it "cover to cover"
2) Have you researched macro trends in their industry from industry pubs, research on industry association web sites, Department of Commerce reports, Bureau of Labor Statistics data on their part of the economy
3) If large enough have you listened to their latest updates to Wall Street (slides, audio, and esp. Q&A)
4) Have you looked up significant profiles on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
5) Have you tracked their recent press releases, strategy changes, exec changes, results announcements...not just national, but very local press
6) Are their people in their networks you also know and can touch base with ahead of time
7) If it's a small business have you mapped out who their competition is on Yellow Pages, or equivalent.
8) Are their customers or consumers ones you can easily touch base with (mall intercept, SurveyMonkey)
9) Read some case studies about their industry to fill in the blanks on key dynamics.
There are numerous collections of these on-line.
10) Etc, etc.

Are you close to your selling and business development organizations if you are a CI professional? Shouldn't you be? (esp. in this economy where it's often about market share not growing markets).


Friday, August 21, 2009

CI - new places to shop for innovation

I am not an innovation expert, but I have watched this space from a new multi-faceted perspective outside of corporate American for nearly two years now. Here are some thoughts and hunches for those of you providing CI support to the R&D and innovation communities. These are things I would pursue, advocate and ask my R&D and innovation friends about. How well are they doing with:

1) Grassroots connections outside of big research labs, academia, established commercial entities in your space: Young President's Organizations, local CEO Round Tables (small firms), angel investor events where new bus ideas are presented, local incubators of all sizes, futurist institutes & alternative educators who are thinking "outside the box", transition services for people out of work (all scientists have pet projects they never got to work on)

2) Reaching out to growing rosters of inventors no longer aligned to corporate agendas...retirees or in in-transition types. YourEncore, Gerson Lehrman, Innocentive, Intota come to mind. YourEncore has a roster of 2000+ "retired" life scientist thinking, helping, looking for new challenges.

3) Replicating localized networking practiced by local legal and CPAs and commercial bankers as they "stalk" emerging businesses in the community. Join SCORE (Service Corp or Retired don't have to be retired!) to join in the free and forever counseling they offer to local business. Visit local job networking groups where innovative people are in transition and often have great ideas but lack confidence in how to pursue on their own. In my community attorneys spend 400-500+ hours of community service doing "outreach" many scientists and other innovators are doing that. Follow local innovators on their blogs and SM activities.
Identify principals or inventors at local firms and follow them.

4) Go younger. The essence of credentialing through academic degrees simply has to change with the advent of information technology and the deluge of sources and types of self-learning processes out there. No educator can keep up with and presume to "teach" beyond a certain increasingly basic level. Efforts of academicians will be increasingly stretched towards keeping up their own knowledge and applying it. Knowledge is simply growing too fast and the tools to access it and synthesize from it are completely redefining academia. More and more adjuncts are being brought in to keep it real and this will lead to further dilution of the old ways.

An increasing number of teens and twenty somethings are likely to be innovating on their own as they are forced to evolve their own ways of learning independently and sharing these with each other "outside the box". Find & sponsor these communities or create them: Junior Achievement, science fairs, community" sessions targeted on specific problems, create a micro-finance venture fund for kids, penetrate the home school community where more flexible learning can be the norm, re-purpose young game creators into other kinds of invention, encourage failure as a learning tool.

5) Leaving 'em alone. At least leave more or 'em alone. How many brilliant people come into corporate R&D environment and are completely frustrated and disillusioned with 2-3 years because they were not allowed to create, innovate when they were under the impression that is whey they were hired. Meeting more and more of them. Sure teach them how to do basic commercial assessments to be selective about what they work on and make sure they know your strategies intimately.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

CI - Good means becoming a child again

Yes I'm a heretic. Like to suggest that if you want to create great CI, watch this and think about it. CI will go the way of education. Interdisciplinary, indistinguishable from many other kinds of learning, more right brained, better choreography.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

CI - Regional Bus Dev Not Defining Core Competencies

I have been poking around different parts of my local business development community for several months. It seems to me many communities are missing the boat in terms of attracting investment and innovation as well as achieving sufficient local alignment on business development strategy.

Why isn't there (maybe someone knows of a/the best source?) a directory or some kind of publication of core competencies at the local economic unit basis (county, zip, city) level which is granular enough to attract the specific entrepreneurial level of attention which leads to decisions. Should/would include areas of technical expertise in a granular way (not alternative energy, but rather wind, biodiesel, fuel cell, etc.), commercial expertise (e.g. specific skill sets within market research), and anything else that helps successfully run a business and which can't be equally easily sourced virtually.

Great project for local business schools to take on as part of providing real value added to their local communities?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

CI and a small contribution to the US healthcare debate

Ever wonder about facts vs. rhetoric of US healthcare reform debate.

The attached is well beyond anything the press, politicians, or townhalls are apparently providing. It's 65 pages but certaintly speaks to many of the issues with substantial bibliography for more study.

Worth reading to inform our townhall assertions.

Take a peak America.

Lot's of the same kinds of "Myth Busting" here that CI professionals constantly encounter.

Presenting CI - Have a conversation

Shared by SourceSaid on Twitter...good thoughts:

Thursday, August 13, 2009

CI - the pitfalls of reverse engineering products

When I first started doing CI, an early task was comparing product costs of ours to theirs. Seems sensible right? If they consistently make theirs for less and sell for same price, over time they "win". This is especially important in industry like FMCC where product cost as percent of selling price is substantial, but much less important in industries like pharmaceuticals where it often isn't.

Try these steps/answer these questions:

1) Do you have a current and representative sample of competitors product across regions, product dates, supply points, channels of distribution, etc. Especially important to track supply cycle and purchasing practices if product cost is tied to a highly variable commodity cost...why was Southwest Airlines profitable in 2008 and almost no one else was (they bought crude oil futures)

2) Don't let anyone (in our case it was the junior Financial Analysts) person who doesn't know how you actually make something calculate it. Should be someone who was/is in the business of making these kinds of products and had lots of experience modeling them or was close enough to the technical communities to be able to figure out ranges of accuracy. Form a team or network if you need to.

3) Calculate & analyze in the context of how competition makes it and the supply chain which supports- not how you do it. Often their products are made in a fundamentally different way than yours. This means you first need a deep understanding of their supply points/suppliers and the bio-chemical-mechanical-electrical-IT processes involved. Is their supply chain different...are they more vertically integrated? How important are they to any one supplier and what is condition of supplier? How do they purchase? How do they inventory? How efficient are they? How long/much do they use assets and in what condition are they? How much do they pay people and what is their organization structure? How do they allocate overheads among products? Do they have exclusive supply agreements on any precursor materials (probably cost them more?). Energy and utility costs vary from place to place. Tax structures and incentives vary.

4) Think about the product from a design and R&D perspective. Make sure you look at the inherent trade-offs that are made in the context of market demand and supply chain pricing of precursor materials. In some industries product spec is often tweaked to reflect pricing environment of materials, purchasers needs, competition, etc. Things are often dynamic vs. static. Some things depend on judgement vs. fact. While this has evolved in the past number of years, in my early days perfume costs in FMCC were estimated by the noses of experienced perfumers. Result turned out to be w/i only about 50% accuracy which led in a couple of instances to strategically flawed conclusions.

5) Often times people are assuming economic order quantities which ignore the fact(s) that an ingredient or part that goes into a specific competitor product is also purchased on a much larger scale across multiple businesses or products.

6) Try to break costs out by sku, variant, model to see where their leverage is.

7) Test the end result against market behavior over time.. Does their pricing behavior align with your conclusions? Is their marketing spend consistent with what your model says they can afford? How quickly do they retool or that consistent with the asset base/capability you have assumed?


CI experts?

Doesn't your job as a CI expert seem to be to learn about and connect anything, anywhere, anytime? When people get stuck with figuring "IT" out, don't they come to you or someone like you?

While I realize at any point in time, the remit is much more focused, the essence of CI is increasingly broad and losing definition. Like me, you are seeing discussions of this on numerous blogs, at SCIP, and at your place of (dis)employment.

Expertise is increasingly like herding cats.

You perhaps increasingly resemble the local politician running for and trying to stay in office - or the small business owner. In a world where knowledge is doubling in days, as is the technology for managing and manipulating that, where work is being virtualized, and the essential organization is splintering into more external links or offshore connections as partners/suppliers, you still get to manage "ALL" of it.

Some things to consider doing:

1) Put multi-experienced, interdisciplinary thinkers in these roles.

2) Emphasize a democratic approach wherein the "CI" leader needs to tap the full capability and participation of the organizations they serve.

3) Because "CI" people have to be multidisciplinary to be successful (beyond their functional peers), make sure they are deeply involved in innovation.

4) Create experiential learning for the community you serve...ideation, scenario planning and war gaming, convene real/virtual panels of external experts, multi-functional centers of excellence on specific competitors

5) Volunteer with not-for-profit or business development entities in the community to get a broader perspective and extend your network - and learn to herd cats.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Repost - "Is branding dead"

To discuss with your marketing customers - Is branding dead?

Courtesy of tweet from Franz Dill (his blog is EponymousPickle - highly recommend)

franzdRT @rogerdooley: Is Branding Dead? New at Neuromarketing

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

CI as duct tape

Ever watch the Canadian comedy series (eh!) The Red & Green Show? of my new American friends always bring that up when they discover how I say my "o's" and once they realize I'm not from Minnesota.

This show demonstrates amazing makeshift problem solving and technical solutions often times using a large dose of duct tape - a sticky, strong, simple, flexible product.

Duct tape is a great metaphor: easy to find, easy to connect A to B, layers make it stronger, easy to shape, can use for many things (Strategy, Bus Dev, Innovation, Operational Improvements, Marketing Tactics, etc.), comes in basic gray color so it may not stand out, etc.

It's a grass roots, democratic tool anyone can use so get your entire organization doing it. Don't wait for expensive solutions. Rig up back-woods systems that get all the information flowing to you (called relationships), experiment with sticking A to B in different scenarios, and by all means have some fun while you are at it.

I can think of far worse fates than to be called "the duct work guy".

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Some CI on Innovation from Education

Might it be said that the same problems with standardized education are the ones that also restrict innovation in many settings? Parentheses are mine.

“The logical conclusion is that we need multiplicity in our teaching (innovation) styles to match and map to these varied learning (innovating) styles. But this isn't possible.... standardization in the teaching process -- in direct conflict to the customization needed by the learners (innovators) . “

Perhaps the only hope for the future of CI, innovation, and education is interdisciplinary studies which are loose, non-standard and self-tailored.


CI - are u creating a social epidemic

Was reading the following on Wikipedia about Malcolm Gladwell's tipping point and thought it very germane to CI community. See:


"The three rules of epidemics

Gladwell describes the "three rules of epidemics" (or the three "agents of change") in the tipping points of epidemics.

* "The Law of the Few", or, as Gladwell states, "The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts."[4] According to Gladwell, economists call this the "80/20 Principle, which is the idea that in any situation roughly 80 percent of the 'work' will be done by 20 percent of the participants."[5] These people are described in the following ways:

* Connectors are the people who "link us up with the world ... people with a special gift for bringing the world together."[6] They are "a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack [... for] making friends and acquaintances". [7] He characterizes these individuals as having social networks of over one hundred people... Gladwell attributes the social success of Connectors to "their ability to span many different worlds [... as] a function of something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy."[8]

* Mavens are "information specialists", or "people we rely upon to connect us with new information."[9] They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others. Gladwell cites Mark Alpert as a prototypical Maven who is "almost pathologically helpful", further adding, "he can't help himself"... As Gladwell states, "Mavens are really information brokers, sharing and trading what they know".[13]

* Salesmen are "persuaders", charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills. They tend to have an indefinable trait that goes beyond what they say, which makes others want to agree with them.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

CI & What is your 9/11

Started reading Pulitzer Prize book "The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11" today by Lawrence Wright - about decades of events leading up to 9/11.

This is a potent case study and reminder of the human factors/profiling to be assessed in most fully understanding "competition" AND the challenges sometimes of getting anyone to believe you and take action.

The original FBI discoverer of the plot had pieced together the shape of what was coming five years before 9/11.

Suggest you read a couple of chapters ( Used on Amazon about $7.50.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

CI - Google VP on why innovation level in recession can be better

Two reasons:

1) No lack of people/ideas when more people are looking for work. Bigger labor/IP supply available to you at lower cost. Most of your assets are people: hire the great resources others are laying off. Believe I posted previously on study by McKinsey showing that winning companies spend more than competition on innovation during recessions.

2) Less capital....fewer get funded (e.g. McDonalds, Apple, Crispy Creme came through this)so stakes are higher. The ones that get funded tend to be really breakthrough. In Cincinnati currently per on source close to A round funding, the ratio of funding is 1/4 what it used to be a few months ago. Higher probability that buying IPO stock during recession will pay off for you?

see video clip from BNET @:

CI in biopharma a harbinger, dinosaur, new cultivar

In my last corporate experience in Pharma I realized that CI was in some sense becoming either a dinosaur or a new cultivar.

If what I saw happen in the biopharma space is characteristic of your industry, maybe biopharma is a harbinger for you - anticipate change.

Here's what I saw in the middle part of this decade.

1) Many things were partnered in R&D and also in-market. That meant two sets of resources - generally too many
2) Lot's of M&A meant less CI folks needed
3) The fundamental need for more discontinuous strategy meant competition in some sense was less important
4) The quality of outsourced services suddenly rose exponentially behind new services offered in the CI space. This was especially true of new databases which offered terrific value, content with consulting, and easy-to-use enterprise wide information platforms which democratized most of the CI exercise across the entire of the direct implications of which was everyone suddenly claimed to own CI


CI is not passive

CI is never primarily about responding. That happens when inexperience and disrespect happens. Now I understand you can't always choose your job. Sometime you get appointed. But if CI is going to be about responding, move on asap. CI is about figuring out what is important to the success of your organization and steadfastly and ingeniously delivering it.

You must find the critical knowledge gaps and fill them no matter what. Instant customer satisfaction and repeat business follow. That's why CI is best done by people with longer term multi-functional industry experience and networks.

I never understand it when folks with only a couple of years experience in an industry and only one business and/or function are appointed. What am I missing?

My first CI boss, a senior manager at a Fortune 100 company, said "Go out and help the business and if you aren't do something else"...what a great description of CI. He wanted action not dusty reports.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

CI in political forums

Seems to me now would be a good time for CI experts to apply their skills to political discourse using social media. Am seeing a whole lot of garbage out there misrepresenting the "facts" and accomplishing no more than political rhetoric. For example, no matter what you think about US health care debate on the Hill right now, would be good to carefully analyze so much of misrepresentation out there.

CI can balance out the conveniently omitted facts the polarized sides leave out. We can help others hone their skills in this space to find a balanced set of "facts" and to distinguish the quality of one link from another.(a simple example is the alleged 46mm Americans without health care...a bunch of those choose not to have it; yes I realize there is an issue about what happens when those uninsured get sick and can't pay and the rest of us taxpayers & insurance premium payers pick up the slack directly or indirectly)