Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ken Sawka, Competitive Intelligence Guru

Ken Sawka, managing partner of Outward Insights, led a stimulating conversation on the relationship between the disciplines of Competitive Intelligence and Strategic Planning at our last coffee.

Ken is a nationally recognized competitive intelligence, early warning system, strategy development expert.  He has had a long and acclaimed career as both and intelligence practitioner and consultant, having developed competitive intelligence programs with numerous Fortune 500 corporations.  He is a regular contributor to the Business Resource Center, and he has appeared on CNBC's Squawk Box.  

Ken's talk concentrated on the importance of "structural signposts" as the point of connection between strategy and competitive intelligence:

"Speculative analysis has a relationship to signposts.  Signposts are indicative of future conditions that have impacts. They come from Indications and Warnings, which is a way of thinking that was originally invented by the military.  Competitive intelligence professionals work with strategists to compare information to indicators.  When there's a match, action networks should be activated immediately.  When linked to signposts and warnings, future events that occur are not only significant by themselves, but they are pointing to a high level set of events that will affect our whole strategy and, therefore, need our attention.

"This shifts the conversation to 'Okay, we knew this was likely to happen, and we know what the course of action is that we should take.'  We can't predict the future, but we can speculate on the evolution of activity that will be significant to our strategy.

"Seeing events from this perspective leads the strategy professional to understand that the CI function 'isn't here to serve me once a year before going to my board meeting, but, rather, it's here to give me input on when something important that I should be watching for is occurring."   

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