Back to Work

Dear friends,

After a few weeks of well deserved rest I have now returned to work. During my vacation this blog was left idle, as I saw fit to prioritize all and any outdoor activities that I could think of. We have precious little sun here in Sweden. It’s get it while you can or not at all.

But now we get crackin’ again and I look forward to it. We have an interesting time ahead of us. Apart from the excitements from the every day grind we also have a few interesting events at the horizon.

I’ll kick things off with an attendance at the Sweden Social Web Camp (SSWC), an un-conference taking place at Tjarö, a small beautiful island in the Blekinge archipelago. I attended the web camp last year, and it was truly a great experience. This year the number of participants have doubled and I do hope the format can survive the growth.

In late September we have a new event called Disruptive Code. The event takes place in Stockholm and features some interesting speakers, among others Andreas Ehn, former CTO of Spotify.

Later, in October I’ll be heading for Reykjavik and the You Are in Control Conference. It was announced today that interactive entertainment legend Ian Livingstone will be the keynote speaker, which is really cool. This will be my second time at the YAIC. Last year’s conference featured both high’s and low’s but all in all it was well worth the visit. The itinerary this year looks very promising indeed.

More exciting events to come, I’m sure.

Finally, on another note: Mattias Bodström from Piratförlaget is putting together a special Sweden Social Web Camp book, a collection of texts from the minds of people who will be attending the conference. Mattias asked me for a contribution and obviously I ‘m glad to help out. You can read my text below.

Information is not intelligence

One of the ways that I earn my keep is by gathering and processing information. Basically I try to keep an eye out for information that can be of value for my employer. I do this through the usual channels. I have my RSS feeds, I follow interesting people on Twitter, I read relevant publications and books online or offline. Sometimes I pursue threads that lead me to research papers, and sometimes I end up reading fashion blogs. I follow topics, conversations and people.

Information is currency, but almost all the information I get my hands on is out there for everyone and anyone to find. I guess it does take some skill and experience finding, filtering and evaluating information, but it’s hardly rocket surgery.

The hard part comes later when you try to make sense of it all. But surprisingly, it is not uncommon for the whole process to grind to a halt after the information has been gathered. Now that, I don’t get. Serving people with information without aiding them in ways such as putting the info in perspective, in context and then stepping up and proposing strategies and directions, is really a half ass effort. It’s luke warm.

To me this is obvious since I’m always interested in generated value – the end game of things. Not everyone feel that they can afford the luxury of applying a whole system approach to information and intelligence. But this is because we only value the outcome of the every day grind, and we only value this because we have found a way to measure it. That which we measure, we choose to think of as extremely important.
But by making your Competitive Intelligence process more lucid, you can measure it, and when you do you begin to see that the process of turning information into intelligence is at the very core of your business. You make your most important decisions based on the outcome of this process. How can you not want to get this right?

The whole chain of Competitive Intelligence is really a six step process:

1. Gather – What’s going on?
2. Analyze – But what ever does it mean?
3. Focus – What does this mean for us?
4. Suggest – Based on the above I suggest we do this: X, Y and Z.
5. Act – Do X, Y and Z.
6. Evaluate – In what way did doing X, Y and Z bring us any closer to our goal?

The chain of events – Information becomes Intelligence becomes Action. And then we evaluate and loop.

Consider this: Information not processed and acted upon is only of value for those who buy and sell information, i.e for those whose end game is the info in itself.

Doesn’t that make you think of shady characters in old movies, you know, those creepy fellows with a cigarette but in the corner of their mouths? And they say to the cop that they’ve got a hot tip that will move the investigation along. A hard boiled dialogue always follows, and it ends with:

– But it’s gonna cost you another five bucks Mr…
– You filthy swine!

The cop reluctantly pulls out his wallet, and the information creep grins and grabs the fiver with his dirty paw. And then he says something along the lines of “go ask big daddy kingpin”, and then he scurries into the night, not giving a hoot for the rest of the story.
Now that’s no way to run a business.

Getting this process right has never been more important than today. New information is generated at such back breaking speed that it can easily freak you out and make you lose your way. If you allow this process to float around in an ad hoc manner, which is not unusual, I suggest you think again.

Competitive Intelligence needs to be a prioritized process. It needs to be deliberate. And it needs to be embedded as an integral part of your day to day operations.

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