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Aug 11 / heathgross

Thank You, Mr. Keating

Thinking outside of the strategy box (illustration)

illustration by Cat Scott

“I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way.”
– John Keating, Dead Poet’s Society

We have all heard the over-used expression “think outside the box.” I tell my analysts AND clients, “don’t just think outside the box, turn the box upside down, climb up on top of it, and you will see things from a whole new perspective.”

One of the critical success factors behind a successful competitive intelligence culture is being teachable. If management is not open to “ideas from the outside” it will be difficult for them to fully appreciate or internalize the competitive intelligence findings.

Part of a teachable culture is the willingness to change strategic direction in light of new evidence. We recently experienced this issue with a UK based client. Our firm was brought in to do a competitive intelligence landscape of a particular market for a New Products group. To their surprise and ours, our research revealed that their product launch strategy was built on several false competitive assumptions.

Rather than facing the wrath of senior management (they had already spent millions pursuing the strategy), they terminated our contract and buried the report.

The point is that the stakeholders of the competitive intelligence product and process must be able to operate in an environment that is flexible and understands that a shift in strategy might be the best course of action in light of new evidence.

Remember the scene from Dead Poets Society, when John Keating (Robin Williams) has the students climb up on top of his desk so that they can “look at the world in a different way”?

That’s the challenge we face as competitive intelligence professionals. We must confront assumptions and theories with an open mind. Telling clients, or senior management, what they want to hear is often the easy solution, but in the end that is not what we are called to do. Our job is to find out the truth, to provide unbiased insight to our clients, not blindly validate what they already presume.

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