Dr. Craig S. Fleisher on Using Intelligence for Economic Development, Growth and Innovation – Aurora WDC

In the following interview, Lora Bray talks with Craig Fleisher, Chief Learning officer at Aurora WDC, about his session on economic development, growth and innovation alongside Rostyk Hursky from the Saskatchewan Research Council at the RECONVERGE:G2 Intelligence Leadership Symposium, April 19-21. Early bird registration ends January 31, 2016 – register today!

LB: My name is Lora Bray and I am joined by Dr. Craig Fleisher learning officer of Aurora WDC. In April, Aurora will be hosting its RECONVERGE:G2 meeting, during which Dr. Fleisher will be presenting with Rostyk Hursky Saskatchewan Research Council in a session focusing on how the intelligence process can enhance business and economic development, growth and innovation. Thanks for joining me today Dr. Fleisher, can you kick off our conversation by explaining the role innovation plays in the practice of intelligence gathering?

CF: Well, thanks Lora, absolutely! This is a topic that I’ve been researching for many, many years and my partner in the presentation, Rostyk Hursky, has been putting into practice there at the Saskatchewan Research Council in benefit of that particular province’s various businesses, both large and small.

Innovation is an interesting area for intelligence professionals and one that has not, I think, been given enough attention through the years. For those of us in that field, we usually hear about things like early warning, we hear about things like being able to detect risks and threats, and of course being in a good position to try to respond to those.

Economic gardens, innovation accelerators and innovation incubators…are all ways in which a competitive intelligence professional can add tremendous, tremendous value to their activities in their organization.

What we don’t hear about enough, in my opinion, is the offensive, preemptive side of our activity, whereby we’re trying to discover, identify, uncover new opportunities. And that’s all around that whole frame of innovation. And, I’ve believed for a long time that, competitive intelligence can truly, truly support both, innovation as well as an innovative culture. And it can do it at a couple of levels.

Number one, it can do it at the level of the business, and that’s where a lot of our attendees of our RECONVERGE:G2 will actually be positioned from. Within a business, needless to say, CI can support innovation across a wide range of different activities, and, as such, can do a lot of that early opportunity identification that so many of us kind of view as a holy grail of CI work.

But, it can also be useful at the regional level and we’re going to talk a little bit in the workshop about how Rostyk, in particular has been working with the SRC in establishing and working with and in conjunction with other partners out in the economic milieu like universities and many businesses and networks in order to create what we call economic gardens, innovation accelerators and innovation incubators. These are all ways in which a competitive intelligence professional can add tremendous, tremendous value to their activities in their organization.

LB: Great! How might CI practitioners and, by extension, their companies, best tap into innovation then? Are we going to be discovering some best practices with which CI professionals can nurture and sustain the benefits of exploring innovation?

CF: There’s a number of areas where they can do this and let me give you a few examples right off the top of my head.

Number one, they can certainly be supportive of their organizations developing new products and services, helping with the proof of concept part of the innovation process. Another thing they can do and be involved with – and there’s a lot of best practices emerging in this area – is to connect with startups. Many companies have been “surprised” by disruptive rivals out there that were kind of nipping at the edges of their markets and adjacencies and things and one of the things we’ve realized studying innovation and intelligence is that, many of these rivals, again, if you can spot them early enough, you can cooperate with them. If you can identify them early you can work with them, develop partnerships or alliances with them and in some cases there may be opportunities to acquire those rivals before they become too large or too expensive. Another thing you can use intelligence for in the innovation process is to evaluate and test new technologies. Certainly you can use it to understand so-called “digital consumers” and their behaviors. It’s a topic that I think we’ve made great strides at in the last two or three years and we’ll talk about some of the techniques we use to do that.

There’s so much we do in the intelligence field in building networks and doing our primary and secondary research that put us into access to sources that truly auger…the desirable kinds of change that our companies should be seeking to make.

Another thing that often goes below the radar in this particular area is how CI can be involved in helping organizations develop innovation or innovation cultures. And this is an area that is truly, for the most part, untapped by intelligence professionals, because it cuts across the whole firm. There’s so much we do in the intelligence field in building networks and doing our primary and secondary research that puts us into access to sources that truly auger the change, and frankly, the desirable kinds of changes that our companies should be seeking to make in the future.

Another one I’ll note off the top of my head is this idea of being able to develop new business models. I can tell you in lots of conversations with our clients, and certainly I know Rostyk has a lot of these same conversations with the clients that he has over there at the SRC, quite often we have inventions that come out that are absolutely ground-breaking. It’s this wonderful old idea of the inventor in the garage that comes up with the earth-denting or frankly universe-denting kind of invention, but the old problem is trying to figure out how to monetize it, how to market it, how do you commercialize that whole process? Needless to say there’s an awful lot of drop off in the level and ability of these inventors or these new ventures to be able to actually commercialize those new products. The success rate, needless to say, is quite low.

Well, we have identified ways, in the research, that suggest means for improving that kind of hit rate, being able to move people through the second and third phases of innovation in order to allow them to achieve greater levels of success in actually reaching the market and doing so profitably. And a lot of that has to do with being able to develop better business models.

So we’re going to talk about that, as well as the last one, which I think is ultra important for intelligence professionals in the partnership identification process and looking at strategic relationships. This is something that I know I’ve been writing about and have got methods for doing that strategic relationship analysis. But, in the innovation sphere these become so much more powerful. You can better leverage them to make your organizations a far better connected one with developments in emerging kinds of players in markets by using these methods in the innovation-intelligence interface.

LB: So, I think it’s safe to say then that, innovation yields opportunities, and CI professionals who, not only, remain open to discovery, but remain dedicated to growing opportunities they unearth with assist in business development, economic growth, and make important strides in their own professional endeavors. Thanks for joining me Craig! I’ve enjoyed our conversation and I look forward to attending your session.

CF: I’ll look forward to seeing you there, Lora and thanks so much for chatting with me about it.