4 Apr

We have all used Brain Storming (or mind showering as some would like us to call it) but have you ever developed brain storming into Role Storming?

Developed by R. E. Griggs in 1985 he suggests that Brain Storming is significantly enhanced if you and your team pretend to be someone else during the process.

The reason why this may work for you is that it enables you to switch perspectives which can be creatively provocative and it may act to reduce inhibitions. Silly ideas generated by yourself can be subconsciously embarrassing but if you suggest to your team silly ideas that your role play character would produce it becomes more acceptable.

The suggested process:

  1. Use a Brian Storming session to purge the first set of easy, obvious ideas.
  1. Identify someone you know well, a friend, someone you respect, someone from history even, someone from public life. Why not role play your key competitor’s Managing Director?
  1. Take on their role, beliefs and attitudes. Use the statement “My person or I would suggest….
  1. Brain Storm or use other idea techniques while role playing.

Repeat the process a number of times using different characters

It may sound childish, but creative thinking is only successful when you allow yourself to think out of the box and drop your beliefs and attitudes.

Following on from this is a full blown War Game, which we believe is one the best and most interesting management tools out there.

Competitive Intelligence Example

3 Apr


Major Regional Development Organisation


To monitor the rivals offerings, special offers and how they attract companies to invest in their areas.


  • Built a portal to collect quality secondary information
  • Major companies who were looking to invest or have recently invested elsewhere to determine their reasoning and decision making strategies
  • Conduct back ground searches on key players


Improved investment rates and a better quality companies building their operations in the area.

Integrating a new starter

28 Mar

A lot of organisations think that once they have found the right person and they have started with them that’s all they have to do, the recruitment process is complete.

Some organisations expect a new member of staff to be wound up and allowed to run, offering a mere introduction to staff they will be working with, shown the fire exits and where to make the coffee.

Clearly new recruits should not be allowed to sink or swim as more often than not they sink or make an early decision that the company is not for them.

As discussed previously, the first few weeks in a position is the time a new employee makes the decision when to leave.

Organisations that have a system for integrating new team members tend to have better retention rates.

There are a number of books based on the first 90 days of a new team member, but ultimately they all suggest a systematic approach. We suggest the following basic system:

  1. Make sure the line manager and Human Resources speak to the new recruit on a weekly basis to see if everything is going well.
  2. Ask an established star within your organisation to mentor the new recruit from day one and perhaps even before they actually start with you.
  3. The mentor has to be someone that understands the company culture, has a knowledge of what mentoring entails and realises it is an ongoing role, meeting them on a regular basis.
  4. Every quarter the line manager, Human Resources and the new team member sit down and discuss questions such as:
    • Are they developing good relationships within the organisation?
    • Do they receive sufficient support?
    • Do they understand how your organisation conducts its business?
    • What is the evidence that supports the new team member is progressing?

Without the mentor arrangement and regular informal meetings with their line manager it is likely that the new recruit will not ask for help and it is left to chance whether they sink or swim.

Next month, we discuss the final part of our best practice recruitment system, the full review and audit.

Rejecting the right candidates

28 Mar

Rejecting the right candidate is a common problem in business. Here are a number of reasons why it may occur.

1.  Some people assume that an impressive educational background or years of experience at reputable company are guarantee for success.

2.  Focussing on the “must haves” before really defining what you want. Stating categorically that a candidate must have X years experience and working in X industry. A typical recruiter will not forward you candidates that could do the job.

3.  The failure to focus on the competencies needed for the specific job, instead looking at how well they got on with the candidate during the interview.

4.  The right candidate may be better than the interviewer and they do not want any more competition in the business.

5.  People fall into the first impression bias and very rapidly reach a conclusion about a candidate. The interview is then a process where the interviewer  looking for confirmation of their initial impression.

6.  The interviewer may not conduct a search for political reasons. Self preservation or for an easy life. It does happen.

7.  Settling for the first adequate choice that works through the door.

8.  Looking endlessly for the perfect choice.

9.  Going with gut feel only.

10.  Using the wrong interviewers.

11.  Using too many assessments steps in the recruitment process.

12.  Employing unstructured or too structured interview processes.

13.  Conducting a “Alan Sugar” approach to an interview.

14.  Using old job specifications and not sitting down with the recruiter to discuss properly. Using the first recruiter that rings up on a morning.

15.  Not conducting reference checks or treating it as an administrative exercise.

Know your elephants

10 Mar

In 1986, Peter Davies was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University. On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air.

The elephant seemed distressed, so Peter approached it very carefully. He got down on one knee, inspected the elephants foot, and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Peter worked the wood out with his knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot.

The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Peter stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Peter never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty years later, Peter was walking through London Zoo with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Peter and his son Cameron were standing. The large bull elephant stared at Peter, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down.

The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man. Remembering the encounter in 1986, Peter could not help wondering if this was the same elephant. Peter summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing, and made his way into the enclosure. He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder.

The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Peter legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly. Probably wasn’t the same elephant.

A story to show that you need to recognise the elephants in order to compete against them.

Companies that use some form of Competitive Intelligence tend to be able to recognise their elephants and are less suprised by their actions.

Competitive Intelligence Examples

9 Mar


A major plastics manufacturer


Despite been in a growth market the operation was loosing business to cheap Chinese companies buying up the business and small niche operators.

They needed new direction in terms of sales, where the long established teams had become order takers rather than sales people and they wanted to understand their rivals more.


  • Conduct Competitive Intelligence against their main rivals
  • Determine production activities by monitoring activities on their rivals sites
  • Product a secondary information collection portal
  • Produce an initial and ongoing market intelligence report


The market intelligence report was compiled over 8 weeks giving the company a snap shot the market, the key issues their rivals faced and a break down of the key players.

From this report we have isolated more refined questions and have since initiated projects to answer them.

Competitive Intelligence on a Shoe String

2 Mar

You meet your competitor at a tradeshow, you bump into her at a networking event. They are all full of how well they are doing and you pick up the paper and the business section has a news piece about a new recruit, new office and how well they are doing?

Is it true or are they just well briefed and paying for excellent PR?

A basic knowledge of Competitive Intelligence may help.

Competitive Intelligence is is the discipline which enables organisations, through the ethical gathering, analysing and reacting to commercial and technical information, to anticipate and out-manoeuvre their competition as well as acquiring heightened awareness of market dynamics and changing conditions.

Put simply, Competitive Intelligence minimizes uncertainty and companies who use Competitive Intelligence can often accurately predict their competitors’ actions and plan accordingly.

Here are some guidelines that may assist you introducing yourself to Competitive Intelligence without spending a lot of cash:

What intelligence are you seeking?

When you have decided you want to know more about your market and your competitors, you could spend 365 days a year looking at every possible sphere and source of information.

If you do not want to be lost in a forest of information, be realistic and focussed by setting some goals and understand the market you work within.

You then have to clarify your goals to determine if they are “must know” and not “nice-to-haves”.

“Nice-to-haves” take the most time and money to achieve and generally have the least impact on your operation.

Take a good look at yourself

Before you look to your competitors, you have to understand your own business. What is your unique selling point and how do you actually compete? What do your customers think of you? Are you focused on price? How do you compare with your rivals? Can you look at related markets for inspiration and ideas?

Look internally to find information about your rivals. Have you employed anyone from one of your rivals or one of their suppliers? Are they able to shed some light on their strategies, customer service, key players and even pricing?

Isolate the players in the game

You need to have a basic knowledge of the players within your market. Simply create a spreadsheet by listing the companies you already know about. Create a table and list as many of the following details as you can:

  • Company Name
  • Locations
  • Website
  • Turnover
  • Established
  • Pricing structure
  • Key players
  • Published achievements
  • Product range
  • Known customers
  • Basic strengths and weaknesses

Companies House will provide you with their latest accounts and search the internet for interesting news articles. You should collate this information in one location.

A good intelligence analyst always asks “So what?”

If your competitor is always in the press, have they just received some investment, have an owner with a large ego that needs massaging, have a good PR agent or do they have a good relationship with the local editor?

It could be of course that they are doing well, but it is likely somewhere in between.

How many times have you read how well a company is doing and then suddenly the company goes bust?

I know of one company in the east midlands that is always in the paper, recruiting new people, hosting events, moving into new offices and everything is a bed of roses. A little bit of Competitive Intelligence reveals that they have turned over less than £70,000 in a year.

If you don’t look at the press coverage strategically you could spend a lot of money keeping up with your rivals when in reality you are ahead of them anyway.

Talking to the editors of the publications and industry experts will provide you some insight to your market and its rivals.

Look at your rivals advertising. What are they saying to the market, what do they consider as their strong points and again what are they not saying about their products? If they are conducting a web based pay per click campaign, can you work out what key words they are using and again “So what?”

Who are your rival’s suppliers? What is their opinion on them and what and how do they charge? They may not tell you, but some do, especially if the questions are asked at the right time and place.

Translating information into knowledge

So far all you have collected is a lot of information. You now have to analyse and sort it into useable intelligence. Once you have done this you need to take action.

Verifying and clarifying all important aspects of Intelligence are incredibly important, just ask Tony Blair! Always try and verify important intelligence from more than two sources.

The whole issue with Tony Blair and Iraq’s ability to launch weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes came from an old Soviet training manual. Mr Blair’s advisors did not or indeed chose not to verify and clarify the information and the rest is history.

Once action is taken it is also good business practice to monitor the impact and take more action if required.

An ongoing process

Good intelligence is only up to date at the time it is published. It is essential that you build competitive intelligence into your company’s day to day activities and responsibilities, as well as constantly clarifying your competitive intelligence goals.