Author: Claire Valentine, Training Manager
TFPL Intelligent Resources
I recently had the opportunity to join a UK Competitive Intelligence Forum (CIF) meeting. I had no real experience of competitive intelligence previously and was keen to understand more about this area. The presenter for the evening, Monica Giese was very engaging (despite having started her day at 3am) and spoke about both the importance of competitive intelligence (CI) to the C- Suite executives and how to gain a position as a C suite CI professional.
One thing that was very clear from the beginning is how CI is very closely linked with knowledge management (KM). There has always been a strong focus on ‘internal’ knowledge management – both the management of organisational knowledge and to a lesser extent the management of personal knowledge. It seems that the management of external knowledge or competitive intelligence has been less reviewed and talked about. I am not sure why this is, I would say that it is equally as important to know what is happening in the marketplace in terms of competitors, laws, policies and innovation as it is to know what body of knowledge you can harness in your own organisation.
Illustrating the importance of external knowledge management, Monica opened her talk with a quote from Robert M. Gates (ex director of CIA 1991-93) ‘knowledge and fore-knowledge of the world around us, is a prelude to presidential decision making’. She went on to illustrate how CI can only be effective if linked with action which needs to be complemented with an in-depth knowledge of the organisation’s strategy. To have this in-depth knowledge, surely one needs to understand fully an organisation’s capabilities including the ability of the people within it. This is where (internal) knowledge management comes into play. Interestingly however, as the talk progressed it became clear that in a lot of organisations there can be conflict between KM and CI at the C-Suite level. This seems like madness but perhaps the focus of different perspectives (an internal and external one) can lead to conflicting messages...... Whatever the reason one thing is clear, for all our strategic leaders in government and industry, having an understanding of the internal and external environment is of utmost importance to decision making. So how do CI and KM work together? I don't know the answer but I think it is an important question to consider