CI firms need ethical and moral collection elements in information gathering efforts.

Aurora WDC’s RECONVERGE G:2 conference proceeded on Thursday morning with a compelling presentation by one of this year’s Jim Mathews Award winners whose topic compared and contrasted competitive intelligence and corporate espionage.

The question of interest is, “Why is CI not the same as spying and how do stakeholders overcome these misperceptions?”

Reasons upfront:

  • Spying denotes covert or concealed efforts to acquire information
  • CI denotes understanding of competitors’ strengths or weaknesses or strategy to enhance decision-making
  • Prescriptive: CI firms need ethical and moral collection elements to undertake CI collection efforts

Defining threat:

  • Economic Espionage Act: Steals without authorization of trade secrets
  • Duplicating or representation of trade secrets
  • Receive trade secrets

Define the alternative:

  • CI is the process of collection and analyzing information about competition strength and weakness in a legal and ethical manner
  • Primary types of CI include tactical and strategic, and it informs the institution about the external operating environment.

Buy into CI or get left behind:

  • Know where and when to look for information
  • Cannot contain info if they misrepresent themselves or us illicit methodology
  • CI pros need to build greater “target centric” operating pictures

Questionable intelligence gathering is not CI:

  • Deceit
  • Improper influence of sources judgement
  • Cover
  • Misrepresentation
  • Unsolicited intelligence (use of insider information, etc.)
  • Appropriate methods include elicitation, use of open sources

Future framework for CI collection efforts: Spot, assess, train, handle customer-centric process placed within an ethical and moral framework, and it requires absolute team buy in.