Qualitative Research in Intelligence and Marketing: The New Strategic Convergence

By Alf H. Walle III | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
Introduction

Competitive intelligence is struggling to come of age; this book is an artifact of that process. It argues that many competitive intelligence analysts seem to have largely forgotten that the forte of the profession lies in the ability to apply insight and intuition to diverse sets of evidence. Although many products of competitive intelligence are linked to modern technology, subjective thought and intuition continue to be the basic analytic tools that are used to infer what cannot be “proven.” By effectively deploying these tools, competitive intelligence can make a unique and distinctive contribution that transcends and goes beyond today’s high-tech solutions.

A key component of that methodology involves combining scraps of seemingly unrelated data into a seamless interpretation capable of demonstrating the goals, strengths, and weaknesses of the group being investigated. Typically, competitive intelligence professionals rely upon data that is weak, compromised, and incomplete; the trick is to appropriately combine this suspect data into an analysis that provides useful information. Although there are dangers inherent in using “suspect” data, there are also risks in ignoring relevant evidence, even if its reliability may be low. Although the techniques of qualitative analysis are not scientific, quantifiable, or “replicable,” they have their place in the decisionmaking process and they have been embraced by practitioners, when appropriate, for that reason.

The ability of competitive intelligence to incorporate diverse forms of information and to employ weak, incomplete, or compromised data into an analysis is a key strength of our profession. In the postwar period, however, business researchers became increasingly “rigorous” and “scientific” both in academe and in the practitioner world. As a result, qualitative methods and intuitive/subjective perspectives were largely ignored and/or discounted. Competitive intelligence,

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