it’s simple. in many countries there remain powerful. executives do not have the luxury of ignoring or marginalising strategic intelligence. more music than ever before is making its way to consumers through electronic distribution channels that the record companies do not.wbsjournal. and cannot. divisional or business unit level. while strategic intelligence in particular represents the “intelligence necessary to create and implement a strategy. for example. whether at corporate. typically a grand strategy”. divisional or business unit level. economic. defined by the underlying strategic notions that shape the views of a firm’s leadership.za • vol 3. policies”2.1 Although the pathway to what Professor Richard D’Aveni of the Tuck School of Business refers to as “strategic supremacy” (or failure?) is. was filing for bankruptcy protection in June 2009. their long-term sustainability is very much in doubt. and which 10 years from now will almost certainly be unrecognisable from the one in which today’s battles for market share and profits are fought. Consider that. Put another way. include a comprehensive assessment of the firm’s rivals – their capabilities. technological. In one sense. But isn’t the importance of intelligence simply a matter of what today’s teenager might call a “no brainer”? After all. and often decisive. And although Microsoft’s suite of Office applications still dominate the desktops of millions of users. it is “to provide [decision] makers with the information and analysis [including warning analysis] needed to formulate effective.. In a business world that bears virtually no resemblance to the one we knew just 10 short years ago. what CEO would be foolish enough to put his or her “stamp of approval” on a strategy that does not. www.. it is. In 2010 and beyond. role in the success or failure of the firm. if we’re brutally honest. often state-owned monopolies that exercise a full or partial stranglehold over one or more industry sectors but. objectives and Strategic intelligence in particular represents the “intelligence necessary to create and implement a strategy. while GM. a function of the extent to which top management embrace and integrate strategic intelligence into their decision-making processes. for some population groups and in some markets. seldom do monopolies – or any other manner of artificial trade barriers – serve the best economic interests of customers or the taxpayer. companies have no option but to face the challenges of a growing host of intensifying competitive forces – in all forms and from all quarters – in what today. So what exactly is the role of intelligence – whether in a national security context or in the business arena? In part. 2010 • issue 22 65 . The reality of the world in which most of us do business is increasingly one where external forces – social. While the political rhetoric of leftwing populists such as Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez may. in part. intentions. Yes. is nothing less than global economic warfare.co. As the music industry suffers steadily declining sales of physical recorded music. a corporate strategy cannot exist without a strategic intelligence component. we argue. in the 21st century.4 Intelligence is not market research or “news”. control. Google Docs – which admittedly does not provide as many features as the Microsoft product – does offer three big advantages: it’s free.Strategic intelligence for executives By Douglas Bernhardt I T IS UNLIKELY that any senior manager today would dispute the proposition that organisational strategy is – or should be – “all about managing to achieve superior performance”. typically a grand strategy”3. and for many of us it’s “good enough”. strategic intelligence is information designed to provide decisionmakers “with the ‘big picture’ and long-range forecasts they need in order to plan for the future”. play well in times of financial disequilibrium and uncertainty. Tata Motors of India continued its double-digit growth in sales. in equal measure. once the world’s largest automaker. political and more – continue to play a major. whether at corporate.

The Intelligence-Policy Nexus. reflects. Businesses. NJ: Princeton University Press. 2007. Strategic intelligence serves as a powerful “force multiplier”. and which apparently took even the bluest of the “blue chips” by surprise. How could we have been so wrong? Where was the strategic intelligence in. “just in case”. they “are primarily ‘estimative’ – that is. predict “the” future. He also teaches at the University of Stellenbosch Business School and other leading business schools in Europe and South Africa. pp. at least in part. It also helps to ensure that decisionmakers do not hang their imaginations on the coat racks outside their office doors. 2010. 66 www. March. McKinsey Quarterly [online]. CT: Praeger Security International.co. if nothing else. which helps reduce residual uncertainty and provides decisionmakers with value-added insight and foresight. even when storm clouds are nowhere in sight. on “all source” information. Unfortunately. of course. Rather like the headlamps of a car travelling at night. they make judgments about the likely course of future events and identify the implications”7 for policy. and on occasion its very survival can be profound. and before that he worked for the international marketing arm of a major defence manufacturing group. 2 JJ Wirtz. and What Needs to be Done to Get it Right. policymakers in Australia. to Tokyo? How many CEOs can you name that based their “take” of how the future was unfolding. and should. 51(2). face a myriad threats to their ambitions.Enhancing business STRATEGIC INTELLIGENCE FOR EXECUTIVES Now think. 3 JG Heidenrich. when was the last time your CEO or executive board requested an intelligence estimate intended for use in support of strategy creation? Or are they satisfied with basing their decisions upon existing. he served as managing director for the Geneva-based consultancy Business Research Group SA. the worldwide recession from which we are all emerging. evidence and impartial analysis? More worryingly. Now think. 2010 • issue 22 . as well as the opportunities they might grasp to advance their goals and protect their countries’ interests. how many business leaders can you point to that persist in “escalating their commitment to losing endeavours that they have an emotional stake in”?8 Although professional intelligence analysts cannot. Sharpening Strategic Intelligence: Why the CIA Gets it Wrong.(posted) 7 National Intelligence Council. late 2007 that could. Try selling that to your company’s “number crunchers”. While “NIEs usually provide information on the current state of play” of a strategic topic. DC: Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Cambridge. to New York. ultimately. 140-150. gut instinct. UK: Cambridge University Press. North America. 5th ed. The reason? The financial pay-off for an investment in strategic intelligence estimates cannot be “quantified” in advance.6 Another question: to what extent are your company’s intelligence analysts – if there are any – tasked with producing equivalents to the National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) prepared for senior American policymakers? An NIE represents the US intelligence community’s most authoritative and coordinated written assessment of a specific national-security issue. 2007. 2007. Studies in Intelligence. 1989. 15-25. they are equipped to critically evaluate and report information. only a handful of companies appear to generate a “product” similar to an NIE. Thus. have triggered the ringing of alarm bells in boardrooms from London. UK: Blackwell Publishing.wbsjournal. 1 RM Grant. too. the UK and most European nations have relied upon strategic intelligence to help them better anticipate and understand the threats they face to national security. Westport. Oxford. Why should executives behave any differently? Their competitors don’t. regular dialogue with intelligence staff ensures that executives are more likely to be responsive to changing their opinions if the strengths of alternative analyses and arguments suggest that that is the smarter course. plans and. 2005. Strategic Intelligence for American National Security. the failure of companies (and governments) everywhere to understand and act upon the dangerous array of misalignments that exist between economic fundamentals and the world as we have for too long chosen to perceive it. typically static and outdated assumptions? Regretfully. it illuminates the road ahead. compiled from both “open” (public domain) and human sources. when was the last time your CEO or executive board requested an intelligence estimate intended for use in support of strategy creation? Douglas Bernhardt is a guest lecturer at WBS. their own economic security. plans? To develop and proceed with a “grand” strategy based on flawed or untested assumption. Princeton. say. 4 BD Berkowitz and AE Goodman. Its impact on an organisation’s mediumto long-term success. pp. The Intelligence Community’s Neglect of Strategic Intelligence. Washington. Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities. or just plain intellectual arrogance is pure folly at a time when every facet of business is changing and moving at Internet speed. How We Do it: Three Executives Reflect on Strategic Decision Making. And since intelligence focuses on the future. Strategic Intelligence: Understanding the Hidden Side of Government. 2007. In: LK Johnson (ed). and can never. Should not our most important engines of economic growth and prosperity – enterprises big and small – also begin to take strategic intelligence a little more seriously? The archetypical Englishman would never think of leaving home without his umbrella.za • vol 3. where he teaches MBA electives on competitive intelligence and on industry and competitor analysis. 6 JG Heidenrich. be perfectly accurate – it is sometimes wrong. 8 M Sorrell. still bloodied and shocked. albeit imperfectly. 5 RL Russell. Previously. therefore. For decades. Contemporary Strategy Analysis. Even though intelligence does not – nor should it – dictate company policy or a particular course of action – that’s senior management’s job – it can make an invaluable contribution to your leadership’s strategic thinking and actions. the big question that corporate leaders need to ask themselves is this: do we routinely demand and receive information “combined with analysis that is pertinent to [our] decision making in gauging threats”5 against our interests? Even the most accomplished chief executive will benefit from analytically derived “insights based on detailed knowledge of obstacles and opportunities and enemies and friends”. Moreover. 2007.

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