In Search of Human (Competitive) Intelligence Part 1:

Authored bycascade

Three Aspects of Identifying Humans

Any human intelligence initiative begins with identifying a high-quality sample of people to interview. The first hurdle for some competitive intelligence professionals is to get comfortable with the idea of contacting a large group of people they don’t know, so managers should be aware of that fact as they assign resources to pursue human intelligence. Aside from that, you also need to gauge the quality of the interviewee list, and the following guidelines are a good place to start:

  1. Target a broad range of people, including various roles within your company such as sales, marketing, engineering, and upper management. Working outward from that core, you should identify additional subjects outside the company during those interviews, including resellers, your customers, and competitors’ customers. You should also identify key market influencers and consultants for interviews to round out your sample.
  2. Consider what motivates interviewees, particularly to help get them to agree to participate. For example, an employee at your company may see your project as a way to be heard by upper management. A reseller may see an opportunity to strengthen ties with your company or bring better products to market. And people in various roles inside and outside the company may respond because of existing personal relationships with the people you got their names from.
  3. Build rapport every step of the way, to help encourage robust participation by your interview subjects. Briefly perusing their blog, for example, may reveal biases, professional orientations and experience, or personal details that could help you build bridges to them and avoid inaccurate assumptions. Look them up on LinkedIn and look not just at their experience, but the groups they are in and their interests. Tailor your discussion to their skill set, finding common ground where possible and frankly admitting your own lack of knowledge.

This blog post is the first in a series of four about the process of human intelligence gathering for competitive intelligence projects. The second post, “Three Sources for Tips in the Search for Human Intelligence,” lists places to go for input on best practices for gathering human intelligence. The third, “Three Ways to Bias Your Interviews (or Not),” points out some common types of bias to avoid in human intelligence interviews. The final post in the series, “Three Pieces of Ethical High Ground to Protect at All Costs,” details some ethical points that you may not have considered, but which you should protect for the good of all concerned.

By Sean Campbell
By Scott Swigart

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