Uncertainty and Competitive Intelligence

It’s hard to say, not knowing – Vermont Proverb

Competitive intelligence in the business world is typically focused around actions by competitors and occasionally by new regulations. However, effective CI units often look beyond what is happening in the narrow business segments their companies operate in. These units look at the broader picture and incorporate coverage of national and global events.  

There are many reasons to look past the core business segment and environment and into the broader world. One common reason is changes in the global economic environment. With several significant events on the horizon, including Brexit, the pending US presidential election, aging US economic recovery (really not a recovery after 10 years), and broader societal changes, looking beyond the current competitive set has new meaning.

CI units that look past their current competitors have the advantage of a longer perspective and provide their stakeholders with advance indications of change. Effective CI leaders track developments that are far afield, using a broad lens to capture peripheral events that may impact the core business. By incorporating the broader perspective, CI units can help reduce uncertainty and help stakeholders make strategic decisions that anticipate change rather than just react to it.

A relatively easy way anticipate change is through scenario planning. This strategic CI tool examines trends that are already underway and projects how those trends will impact the future markets. Scenario planning is not about developing a single strategy based on one scenario, but rather about building strategy options that will work in multiple scenarios.

Applying scenario planning to the current uncertainties would entail, for example, building a scenario around Brexit that looks at several options such as a managed exit, a crash out, a stumbling adjustment, and no exit. For each scenario, different strategic elements emerge, and the end result is a clearer picture of company’s option.

Scenario planning is a way frame strategy around what the future holds, and in the process reduce the “unknown unknowns” from the equation.  Unknowns remain, but there are fewer of them and the scope of what is unknown can be watched for changes.

Fletcher/CSI supports clients with scenario planning workshops that help reframe the issues and the strategy to follow. To learn more about how scenario planning can support your CI goals, please feel free to contact us.