Competitive & Marketing Intelligence Resources
Businesses (and people) over time develop habits and patterns of working. Sometimes these will lead to success, but often they can stop management from seeing reality - especially when the business environment changes.
A successful competitive intelligence programme will identify these business blindspots - both in the company itself, and in its competitors. Taking advantage of competitor blindspots is a major way that a company can beat its competitors, so it is crucial to understand one's own blindspots so as to protect oneself from possible attack.
One way to illustrate business problems is through humour. Humour allows businesses to take a step back and see a problem applied to a situation that appears different to their own. However on deeper examination, one can sometimes see similar behaviour in the organization - thus highlighting a possible blindspot.
Humour is just one technique for showing blindspots. Others include the use of drama workshops and story-telling, or war-gaming where the business environment is modelled and management try and take an external look at their and their competitor situations. This page gives examples of business humour that may seem amusing but have a grain of truth to them. (If you know of other similar items please contact us and if we like them, then we will add them - with an author credit if desired. We also plan to change stories on a regular basis - as we come across suitable items - so bookmark this page and revisit for further examples of business humour.)
Most of the following stories and office "theories" are anonymous. That does not mean that they lack validity - and in fact there are a number of lessons relevant to general business, marketing and competitive intelligence that can be learned from them.
Two cab drivers met.
"Hey," asked one, "what's the idea of painting one side of your cab red and the other side blue?"
"Well," the other responded, "when I get into an accident, you should see how all the witnesses contradict each other."
Just because two pieces of evidence picked up during a competitor research (or any other research) exercise contradict each other does not mean that they are both untrue. They could both be true - you just don't have the full picture.
How to delay paying your bills.
- Wait until they send the bill the third time then write. (Never phone, or use e-mail - writing is slower) and ask why you haven't received an invoice. Demand a written reply for your auditors.
- Ask for an itemised account but don't explain what you mean by itemised. When you receive the invoice, write back saying that it was not what you had wanted at all.
- Send a cheque with figures not matching words. When they call to complain, send a corrected cheque - but omit to sign it.
- Send a copy of their invoice with a torn corner of cheque stapled to it. This will start a frantic hunt for your missing cheque. When you eventually hear from your supplier - delay further while you check with your bank. And all the time they'll be apologising to you!
- Tell them that your cheques require two signatures and the other signing officer is on prolonged sick leave/sabbatical/silver anniversary cruise for the next month
- Send a cheque for the wrong amount made out to a completely different (fictional) company. When they call, promise that you will sort it out - but will have to track down how the mistake occurred and contact the other company to get the cheque back.
Courtesy of Dun & Bradstreet who point out that none of these will work if you use their services! In fact good credit control is essential for business cash flow. Even though customers may try and delay paying their bills, there is a guaranteed way of collecting from all but the most awkward debtors. The 4 P's
1. Personal Contact - deal directly with your debtor.
2. Patience - be prepared to wait
3. Persistence - but don't ever give up.
4. Payment of bills, quickly, without problems.
(Courtesy of Paul Hemsley, ex-of Thomson Scientific (formerly Derwent Information)
The Mushroom Theory of Management
Keep all employees in the dark and feed them sh*t!
Another month ends
All targets met.
All systems working.
All customers satisfied.
Staff eager and enthusiastic.
Pigs fed and ready to fly!
However important it is to keep records, a culture that expects everything to be sorted at month-end is dangerous. Another example is where management set unrealistic targets, (perhaps even with penalties if they are not met). All that happens is that people "invent" or exaggerate what is happening, manipulating information so that it matches what management has asked for. Over time this becomes embedded in the culture - another blindspot.
Benjamin Disraeli is reputed to have said: "There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics". Companies spend a lot of time using statistics to show what is happening - but is this real and objective or just wishful thinking and subjective?
A matter of interpretation.
- When I take a long time - I am slow.
- When my boss takes a long time - he is thorough.
- When I don't do it - I am lazy.
- When my boss doesn't do it - he is too busy.
- When I do something without being told - I am trying to be smart.
- When my boss does the same - that is initiative.
- When I please my boss - I am creeping.
- When my boss pleases his boss - he is co-operating
- When I do good - my boss never remembers.
- When I do wrong - he never forgets.
Another version - this time from a more feminist perspective (?) was passed to us as an E-mail from the "Cab Lady" in Singapore. The original was by Katherine S. Beamer. It can, however, be made more general - just change some of the words: man could become "lazy employee" while a woman could become "the boss". It doesn't work totally - but it illustrates how some people view work and others.
- A man is a person who, if a woman says, Never mind, I'll do it myself, lets her.
- A woman is a person who, if she says to a man, Never mind, I'll do it myself, and he lets her, gets mad.
- A man is a person who, if a woman says to him, Never mind, I'll do it myself, and he lets her and she gets mad, says, Now what are you mad about?
- A woman is a person who, if she says to a man, Never mind, I'll do it myself, and he lets her and she gets mad, and he says, Now what are you mad about? says If you don't know I'm not going to tell you.
Rules of Work
1) Never walk without a document in your hands.
People with documents in their hands look like hardworking employees heading for important meetings. People with nothing in their hands look like they're heading to the staff restaurante or the coffee machine. Worse though is to walk with a newspaper. People with a newspaper in their hand look like they are heading to the bathroom. If you have to read a newspaper, read it at your desk holding a pair of scissors or a highlighter pen. That way people will think that you are working and looking for suitable articles to add to the company clipping service.
This rule about carrying documents is especially important when leaving work at the end of the day. Make sure that you are seen to carry loads of stuff home - giving the impression that you work much longer hours than you do.
Based on ideas from BBC Television's The Office. For further rules of work and office humour, bookmark this page and visit again soon.
Quick Tip: Questions
A key competitive intelligence skill is the ability to distinguish what you do know from what you don't know. The effort is then to find out sources for the unknown information - as the great English writer, Dr Samuel Johnson said:
Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.
Unfortunately even with the knowledge there can be problems. Lewis Branscomb - the US physicist and Harvard management professor once said:
People rarely distinguish among data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. But they are as different from each other and as interlocking as starch molecules, flour, bread, and the flavorful memory of a superb morning croissant.
The aim of competitive & marketing intelligence is to turn data into something that can lead to competitive advantage in the same way that your morning croissant or loaf of bread depends on flour and water interacting to make something that is more than just a mixture of the raw ingredients.