Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Intelligence Starts With “I” But I Wish It Started With “We”

By Barbara Barrett

Competitive Intelligence Manager

We had been interacting over email for a while. One day we decided to meet and talk. I didn't think what we were doing was disruptive at the time. After witnessing intelligence teams in several different companies, what we were proposing was certainly different. It was a collaborative discussion and the start of building a culture. Over time, others wanted in or just wanted our intelligence. That’s how we knew that we were on to something special. 

The three of us met and talked weekly, most Fridays, without fail. An expert in regulatory, an expert in the market/competitors, and an expert in the customers. We shared what we were reading and what we were hearing from the industry, the customers and competitors. We listened to each other’s opinions. We asked: What does this mean for our company, competitors, customers? Is it changing the industry or market direction? Then we took action; we decided if something needed to be monitored or addressed. We outlined the implications and options for next steps, than elevated it to senior management.

This meeting was a catalyst. What each of us was doing as an individual contributor was good enough; we satisfied our goals and objectives. It was better when we collaborated over email; we connected the dots quickly. But it was best when we started talking, and ultimately created a culture of disruptive intelligence.

It wasn’t what we were doing that was disruptive, rather how we were doing it. What happened in that meeting was motivating. We grew to truly trust and respect each other’s strengths, we worked through challenges by brainstorming and tapping each other’s networks. It was a true collaboration. We found that we each looked forward to this meeting. We rarely missed it. And it was on a Friday, where our company culture had minimal office presence on Fridays. Why? We were creating strategies with cross-functional input and they were really good.

It was simply the right recipe for what we needed at that company and for the goals and objectives we were given. Each one of us had the skillset to conduct that process by ourselves. But we knew it wouldn’t be as good, or as fun, without meeting and discussing.

Senior management always wants strong recommendations. This is a great goal, but hard to do with that “strong” qualifier in there. For intelligence teams, I believe two is stronger than one and we is stronger than I. I vote for a collaborative intelligence culture with discussions every day of the week. 

So how do you set up a team to curate intelligence that disrupts? Start talking! It’s a domino effect: The culture of the meeting drove complete accountability and responsibility for our actions and follow up. We gathered information all week and shared with each other throughout the week. Even outside of our meeting with other assignments, we supported each other without fail. That was a testament to the strength of our culture, and a direct result of our collaboration.

The discussions in this meeting were a catalyst that spurred motivation, created a feeling of excitement and pride knowing that we were part of a community with dynamic colleagues with complementary strengths. This was also a great way to reduce intelligence blind spots.

The strategies that resulted were strong. They were based on evidence, expertise and anticipation of industry or competitor changes. They were disruptive strategies because they combined multiple perspectives. The intelligence was vetted and positioned competitively; taking into account current company structure, positioning, strengths and weaknesses.

We wish every intelligence professional could have a group like this. It is worthwhile to have goals and aspirations of building the right culture for your team and organization. I wish that for you, that your meeting produces the intelligence that is the catalyst for disruptive strategies…just like mine.

Barbara M. Barrett

Barbara developed a passion for Competitive Intelligence through multiple roles in Product Management and Marketing at global Fortune 10 companies like GE and Ford, where she was responsible for competitive strategy and positioning. She started specializing in CI, believing it improved her contributions in these roles.

She now specializes in program strategy and win-loss analysis, having implemented CI programs at organizations in the RTP area. Barbara holds an MBA from Penn State and a Post-MBA Master of Global Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management. She is currently the Competitive Intelligence Manager at Quintiles.

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