What’s the character of your competitors? Are they Guardians or Idealists? What about the temperament of their leaders?
Understanding the character of a company and it’s leaders is a useful way of distinguishing between what a competitor could do, versus what it is likely to do. For the CI practitioner, this is an extremely valuable distinction. A shopping list of possibilities isn’t really actionable as there are too many ‘possibilities’ for any manager to plan for. What’s needed is a way to screen the ‘possible’ actions and create a short list of what’s actually likely to happen. This is where understanding the culture of a company and the character of it’s leaders provides a useful sorting mechanism. And this is why the Mindshift’s course on competitor profiling is probably one of my favourite courses.
So how does it work?
Create the Basic Profiles
To start with, you need a pretty good base of information about your competitor and it’s leaders. As was pointed out repeatedly during the workshop, you need to build profiles that include both ‘hard information’ (data, facts, statistics, news, time-lines) and ‘soft information’ (opinion, anecdotes, commentary, personal observation).
In my experience this is a straightforward but very time consuming process. If you don’t have an army of graduates/interns to do this work then you might want to consider subscribing to a service like Factiva to speed up your information search, or even contract a librarian/researcher to assist.
Once you have a mix of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ information, this is used to create profiles which summarise the key information about the competitor and it’s leaders.
Analyse the personality and corporate culture
A major focus of the Mindshifts course was using the information in the profiles to estimate the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) of your competitor’s leader(s). This then provides a frame of reference for predicting how they are likely to behave when faced with certain situations or decisions.
Where things took an interesting turn during the workshop was when we were introduced to the idea of using MBTI to describe the corporate culture of a company. This process involves the CI practitioner analysing the culture of the company within an MBTI style framework to determine the temperament of the competitor. (e.g. Guardian, Artisan, Rational, Idealist).
From Possibilities to Probabilities
The third step starts with analysing the competitor using Porter’s ‘Competitor Analysis’. By examining the competitors stated goals, current strategies, capabilities and management assumptions – a response profile is generated which identifies the competitors possible offensive and defensive actions. This is where a lot of ‘competitor analysis’ (including my own until now!) would have stopped – with a list of possible actions.
What makes the Mindshift’s profiling course so useful is that it teaches how to use the culture and personality profiles to narrow down the list of ‘possible’ actions into a shorter list of what the competitor is ‘probably’ going to do. This is extremely valuable to the CI practitioner as it then becomes more realistic to offer options for responding to the competitors likely actions.
Overall, I’d rate this as my favourite Mindshift’s course so far. For those interested in attending the course, keep an eye out on the “Upcoming Events” page at Mindshifts or join their mailing list.
Note: This is an edited version of an article previously published at ‘Catallaxy Files’ but lost during the great crash of ‘09.