How not to share competitive intelligence

Claudia, a senior CI analyst, has unearthed new details on a rival’s product roadmap. Looks like they have plans to leapfrog a popular product feature within six months.

Brimming with enthusiasm to boost the profile of her CI function, Claudia sends a hasty briefing to sales, marketing, engineering, services, executives, and her mother.

Responses include:

  1. This does not matter to us at all. They never deliver on product promises. Also, don’t send these things to sales.
  2. Attention everyone: We must plan to do the exact same thing, right now, or I’m going to scream.
  3. Lovely to hear from you. So are you some kind of spy?

As the thread is forwarded and replies become colourful, Claudia steps outside for some fresh air. Her enthusiasm to share new intel interfered with her sense of organizational dynamics.

Weeks later, she catches another file worth distributing. What can she do differently to build a confident, honest, shared understanding of the latest intelligence?

Recommend personally, inform broadly.

If new intel has implications for a certain internal team, bring your initial recommendations to their attention in private. Have a quick chat with one or two key people about the discovery.

Maybe your recommendation is already covered by their strategy, so the competitive news simply adds urgency or adjusts tactical dials. Or, the intel might undermine plans and warrant deeper consideration.

After this round of conversation, Claudia should be close to a solid briefing for a wide internal audience. She can even include quotes from the relevant teams to add credibility to her judgments.

With her briefing taking shape around a central argument, she does not need to exclude details or bend the facts to appease different audiences. Claudia’s final writeup will make no tradeoff between honesty and confidence.

Find clues in context.

As a full-time CI analyst, Claudia is always watching for signs of relevant changes in the competitive environment. She turns to her archives for more clarity, sorting through neatly tagged intel from competitor marketing campaigns, investor briefings, advanced web search, and sales opportunities.

Equipped with contextual intel, she can develop informed judgments on questions like:

  • What pressures may have led our competitor to this point? Customer satisfaction? Regulation? Investor demands?
  • Where do they intend to grow long-term?
  • Have they been getting in our way, or avoiding us?

Huddle up.

With core teams on alert and broad awareness created, Claudia must ensure this intel doesn’t get lost in the next news cycle. She invites six colleagues who showed interest in the briefing to a workshop the following week.

By then, the news will have settled in. Claudia will have time to design a series of conversation starters to continue shaping a shared understanding of the market change.

After the workshop, Claudia inspired rich debate between teams without any extreme emotional reactions. Her use of contextual intel and phased discussions are developing a sense of shared understanding across the company.

And although she doesn’t consider her work “spying,” she smiles knowing that even a real spy would be jealous of her new-found cool under pressure.

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