Asking the right question.
“We hear only those questions for which we are in a position to find answers.” – (attributed to) Friedrich Nietszche
I’ve been thinking about what it is that makes competitive intelligence a unique endeavor, particularly since the activity itself has become widespread among many other positions (see post here). It’s not the analytical techniques – scenarios, war games, SWOT, benchmarking, technology forecasting, etc. are all applied by others in many different positions. It’s not the communication skills – every successful business professional aspires to be better at it. It’s not the process – over the years it seems that every competitive intelligence group has functioned differently based on their own unique situation and clientele.
I’ve come to the (tentative) conclusion that it’s the ability to ask the right question about the issue at hand.
No big deal, you say. Anyone with enough knowledge and understanding of the key variables of the situation can formulate the right question. But often the question you ask is predicated on your assumptions and situational biases. A marketing person will often ask a completely different question from the technical staff and the sales group. Even senior managers have individual assumptions and biases based on what they did that made them successful in the past.
I’m positing that what makes a competitive intelligence staff person different is their ability to step outside of a typical business persona, and determine potential biases and situations where “we’ve always done it that way.” They dispassionately define the key question that needs to be answered, and then identify the range of potential answer(s) that can be pursued.
Sure, you need the skills and techniques to take that question and come up with alternative answers that are relevant to your organization. But you can’t get the right answers until you ask the right questions. And that’s a much more unique and valuable skill.
Source: decisionintel, February 16, 2015