Unlike spycraft, competitive intelligence must operate within the ethical and practical confines of the business community. There is no room for the force or deception that can play a role in the operations of the international intelligence community. Rather, competitive intelligence draws from fields such as market research for its techniques and approaches:
- Soundness and objectivity of data-collection methods can be assured in the competitive intelligence enterprise by employing some of the sophisticated sampling approaches developed in the market research field.
- Breadth of research techniques employed by market researchers, such as in-depth interviews, Delphi panels, or crowd-sourcing can provide valuable perspectives to competitive intelligence projects.
- Caution about market-research assumptions in areas such as sample size are nevertheless needed, because accurately representing a broader population is often not the goal of competitive intelligence projects that may instead focus on a specific individual competitor’s plans, customer list, or pricing.
This is the second of three posts that examine the oft-repeated comparison between competitive intelligence and spying. The first one, “Three Spycraft Approaches versus Business Ethics,” shows how ethics demand different approaches in the business world, relative to the intelligence community, and the third, “Three Ways the Journalist Vanquished the Spy,” describes valuable insights from the world of investigative journalism.
By Sean Campbell
By Scott Swigart