<p><p><p><p><p><p><p><p>The Secret Language of Competitive Intelligence How to See Through</p></p></p></p></p></p></p></p>
By Janice Scanlan
never been a big fan of focusing on the competition in devising overall business
strategy. Certainly looking at the competition too early in working on strategy
creates “look-alikes.” It dooms creativity and customer focus in sales
strategy. So becoming engrossed reading Leonard M. Fuld’s The Secret
Language of Competitive Intelligence was very unexpected.
Fuld’s competitive intelligence consulting firm has been in business since
1979—and his enthusiasm for his work is quite apparent. While he gives lip
service to Michael Porter’s strategic framework that structures strategy by
examining various stakeholders, this book devotes itself to the competition part
of the method, often speaking as if focusing on
competition covers all the bases.
he makes some appealing points for business leaders who want to make change take
any leader who has been bored silly with a method-oriented SWOT session,
disappointed with the lack of results or has had trouble implementing strategy,
Fuld’s active writing style and cases are quite alluring. One of the best examples is the VISA case on early warning.
Warning: How VISA Avoided Doom and Gloom
warning and VISA’s response to competitors like PayPal and the notion the
Internet is not safe for credit cards is an excellent example of fostering a
planned response. Besides developing several possible scenarios of how a
competitive threat might develop, the real value of the case was the way the
strategist allayed fears of the future by planning for it and developing early
warning to know what to do and when to take action—by involving key people.
rather than let fear and reaction drive the organization, a planned response fostered high morale (not doom and gloom)—and the system worked. It’s a good
reminder to any change agent how involvement and support can reduce fear and
inaction that rob organizations of energy and morale.
while the responses are planned, they are reactive to the competition and really
tactics. There's nothing wrong with staying ahead of competition or seeing that ideas are
executed. But what do you really intend—innovation, execution or both?
with turnover in organizations, really studying, predicting and staying ahead of
an opponent much less keeping early warning alive and well may be easier said
than done—and competitive knowledge comes from time and experience as Fuld
aptly points out discussing Warren Buffett.
hope and involvement enough for achieving great strategy results?
Intelligence May Inherently Trap You in the Rat Race
the competition and the fringes of markets are a part of sustaining market
leadership, a means not to be blindsided—a way to keep the cash cows coming
home. If your product cycles are getting shorter and your sales cycles getting
longer, you may want to escape the rat race —not invest time in it.
you really want to find new and unique opportunities, competitive analysis may
yield insight into areas the competition is ignoring—or not.
one set of tools with the inherent potential of keeping your organization stuck
in the past—not focused on the future.
real question is whether you want to stay focused on playing the competitive
game (and executing well) or finding new avenues that aren’t so readily
countered and/or replicated—a truly unique marketing position that can be
executed by your organization. Look how long Southwest Airlines has stayed
profitable and not easily copied—Jet Blue is learning some expensive lessons
about profitability. Copying with a little more may not have been such a winning
This book is quite good in the first five chapters if you’re looking for ideas to help people understand and develop responses to competition and/or methods to find the hope and courage to win. The VISA case illustrates some good scenario planning tools for change management. If you’re looking for more than hope and for ways to formulate unique strategy, there are better books and methods. Ensure you achieve your intent by understanding what you really want.
About the Reviewer
Janice Scanlan is Managing Principal Performance Foundations, a consulting firm that helps clients ensure their marketing, sales and service integrate to produce winning results.
Copyright 2006 Traction. You may distribute so long as attribution is given to Traction and a web link is used.