In May 2019, Fletcher CSI attended the International Competitive and Market Intelligence Conference held in Luxembourg. This Conference has become a “must attend” event for established as well as aspiring market intelligence professionals who are based in Europe. Attendees value the opportunity both to learn and network with their peers who travel from many parts of the world.

After a brief welcome by Rainer Michaeli, the first day started with keynote speaker Satish Tiwary from Airbus. He shared his experience on the value of studying patents and patent applications along with IP in order to gain competitive insight. This included how the study of patent applications can be used to anticipate competitor activity. Satish shared many ideas, one example being by studying the exact location of the patent inventors, you may be able to gain a real understanding of a competitor’s corporate strategy as well as organisational structure.

Understanding Competitive Dynamics:

This was followed by a case study – Understanding Competitive Dynamics in the Pharma Market. This summarised the story of three large organisations operating in the global pharmaceutical industry. Two of the companies had failed to appreciate the intensity of their global competitive environment. They had failed to recognise the speed with which one of their key competitors was catching up. Their  sales and market share forecasts were based on their internal world of numbers and scenario planning which proved to be delusional.  

Two of the organisations were not actively monitoring their external changing environment, time compressive disruption,  external signals nor were they collecting current intelligence. Their processes had become complacent. It also became apparent that there was not one individual directly responsible for the creation of an intelligence led foresight culture within their corporation. Needless to say, two of the companies, in effect, lost a race they had not truly appreciated they were in. They were overtaken by an understated but more aggressive competitor that started out as number three in the race. By behaving more as a market challenger and employing some innovative and smart tactics, they won the race for first move advantage, new products launched and significantly increased their market share.     

Talent Intelligence:

Gerrit Schimmelpenninck shared his views about the importance of talent intelligence in terms of  identifying key people to watch and how an organisational strategy can be reflected by the background of C-Suite and number of executives being hired. Chad Eng of Optum challenged us to think what in reality CI is, and how is it practiced. He provoked us to consider that all employees within the corporation should be doing MI/CI, sharing their observations to support key decision making, minimise surprise, mitigate risk, and improve productivity.  Viviano Loriato from Raizen then gave an excellent talk about how the principles of CI can be embraced for strategic sourcing in the supply chain in order to save costs, becoming more competitive and profitable.

The keynote on the second day was given by Professor Jonathan Calof from the University of Ottawa in Canada. He shared a fascinating case study of the history and subsequent demise of Nortel and how it failed to recognise the sheer pace of their fast-changing market environment. Nortel was once the largest Canadian company and one of the largest telco companies in the world.  Jonathan shared some of the results of his research which uncovered stories of a growing culture of internal complacency verging on corporate arrogance, all of which support the views from the book “Only the Paranoid survive”, written by Andy Grove, ex CEO of Intel.  

Art of Perception:

Minal Shah of SAP, shared her view on CI taking account of the digital age.  Minal made the valuable point that SAP realised that their top competitive threat was in effect “unmet customer needs” i.e. not necessarily a traditional competitor but lost potential within their marketplace. SAP has  developed the concept of what they termed  C2MI – where the “C2” referred to competitors as well as customers. Minal advised that all CI/MI professionals should truly embrace the customer experience and fully understand the true cost of failure to address true market potential.

Michael Neugarten a leading consultant based in Israel and London gave an interesting talk about the Art of Perception – and the power of “noticing”.   This talk illustrated what CI Professionals can Learn from the study of Art. Using many examples from the art world, he demonstrated how failure to observe the detail could lead to catastrophic failure.  When planning a strategy, business people are often are tempted to think “big picture” when in reality the “devil is in the detail” which can lead to the infamous strategy to execution gap.

Future Thinking and Competitive Advantage:

We moved to a presentation on the power of future thinking in order to maintain competitive advantage, by sharing the concepts of divergent and convergent thinking & the golden circle of “what, how, why”  (we should always “start with WHY”).  Joanna then shared details of the STEEP model (societal, technological, environmental, economic, and political ) as key drivers that dictate or create demand, and impact any market dynamics. She advised that a true market insight professional should justify the reason for the intelligence requirement (linking it to key decision making), and always be empowered to challenge the status quo.  Joanna concluded that any CI methodology should also be both planned and emergent using the FAB model (Features, Advantages, and Benefits). Additionally, she advised that market Intelligence professionals and their work should always embrace the rule of MECE – mutual, exclusive, conclusive, and exhaustive.

Gianita Bleoj from the University Dunarea de Josthen, shared some of the results of an academic study into her work of a strategic intelligence maturity model. This plots how several leading companies’ business performance was impacted by where they were placed on their journey toward true intelligence maturity.

Erik Elgersma of Friesland-Campina then concluded the second day and judged an internal contest that had been created for the delegates. Conference attendees had been challenged to set up a CI system for a corporation going through a turbulent and challenging time.

Final Thoughts:

Over the years, this conference has become both an intellectually stimulating and socially invigorating experience. Many friendships and network groups have been created, and a sense of collegiate sharing of purpose takes place, along with a fun and relaxed evening out with fellow market intelligence  professionals. 

Fletcher CSI looks forward to seeing you in Bad Nauheim in 2020!

For more information about how Fletcher/CSI can support your strategic and competitive intelligence needs, please contact Gordon Donkin at [email protected] or +44 7711 056661 for European inquiries, or contact [email protected] or 802-660-9636 to reach our U.S. headquarters.

Click here for our 2018 ICI Recap!