In the Talon Strategy, competitive intelligence (CI) tool chest, we have many different CI tools that we utilize for different clients and different situations. Recently we have had many small businesses and even start-ups as clients, which have a completely different set of needs than a bigger, more established client. Start-ups and small businesses typically are relatively new to their marketplace and are busy trying to find a niche to carve out. Competitive Intelligence helps these businesses by defining the space, pointing out gaps to take advantage of and helping to establish benchmarks. Many times a small business doesn’t have a clear picture of who or what it is competing against and a comprehensive competitive landscape will help in that situation.
For a bigger more established client in a more stable industry, CI will act more defensively by identifying new threats, new markets and channels and new potential revenue streams. In this type of company CI takes on more of a daily research function, but sometimes when a company feels that things have stagnated, a War Gaming exercise may be the perfect tool to move things forward.
Competitive War Games is an exercise where the top minds in an organization come together for the sole purpose of destroying their own organization. This is an over-simplified definition, but essentially a war gaming exercise uses the employee’s knowledge of their company, their industry and their competition to find new innovations, strategies and tactics to point out weaknesses and opportunities. And this is all done as a fun, company exercise.
Competitive War Games are most effective however when an organization has developed a culture of competitive intelligence. Talon Strategy would have a very difficult time running a war games scenario in an organization where the majority of employees didn’t understand the competition. To have the greatest impact, a war gaming exercise would be executed by an organization that had its people continually thinking about the competition as well as the company strategy that applied to that competition. When an organization has a culture of competitive intelligence, it is always improving and always innovating because the members of that organization are always thinking about the competition. This sounds simple, but in reality many companies do not have a culture of CI, in fact many businesses have no CI at all, even large established businesses.
Establishing a CI culture at an organization takes time, but the benefits are many when all decisions are made with the competition in mind. The single most important aspect of establishing a culture of CI in an organization is having it start from the top. If the CEO is unconvinced of the value of CI, then establishing a CI culture will be nearly impossible. However If the CEO believes in competitive intelligence, uses it and understands the value, a CI culture can be developed.