Tag Archives: Business

Should you know your company better than you know your competitors?

When we think of competitive intelligence, we may tend to assume that it’s all about knowing your competitors. While it’s obvious why you need to know as much as you can about the competition, we may assume that we already know everything we need to know about our company.

That may not always be the case though. Here are a few examples why knowing your company better may be more important than knowing your competitors:

–          If one of your competitors is very expensive and you think that you can offer a better price, you need to make sure that this strategy is sustainable in the future. Is your company capable to support this strategy on the long term?

–          If you learn that a competitor has a weak sales team and you have some “rock stars” who can sell anything, you need to make sure than you can deliver what you sell otherwise the initial success may turn against you

–          When your strengths are mainly based on technology that is very likely to become obsolete on the long term, you need to know how your company can adapt to change

In order to know your company better, you need to focus on the human factor more than on the technical or economical ones. Your different types of capital are an important competitive advantage but it’s the human capital that’s the most unpredictable and has the most impact on the future of the company.

Probably the most important challenge when analysing a the employees of a company is that fact that we tend to separate them into categories or see them as a collection of individual employees. The holistic approach is preferable since it’s based on the idea that natural systems (including social and economic) should be seen as wholes, not collections of parts. Companies are legal or economic entities but are rarely seen as an entity characterised by interdependence (relationships between people who depend on each other)

This is why the skills and experience of a decision maker, leader or superstar employee needs to be analysed in the context of the interdependence with the others employees of the company. Similarly, the untapped potential of the employees can be assessed by taking into account the importance it may have in the interconnected company.

These exercises are not usually seen as an important part of a competitive intelligence initiative and we tend to take employees for granted or evaluate them individually. While this approach may reveal conflicting interests in the company as well as a different (even opposite) understanding of its direction and values, these challenges need to be acknowledged in order to be addressed.

The employees or a company can be found in all four quadrants of a SWOT analysis: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Do you know how many of them are in the weaknesses and threats quadrants? Do you have a plan to move them to the other quadrants?

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By Xhienne (SWOT pt.svg) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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What’s this company culture everyone talks about?

We’re sure you already heard experts talking about how the company culture is the answer to pretty much everything that goes wrong in any company. Employees hate their jobs? Company culture can fix it. Your customers don’t really like you? You need a good company culture. Company culture seems to be some sort of panacea, named after the Greek goddess of Universal remedy, Panacea, also known as panchrest

Panacea

No one really talks about what company culture is (or isn’t) – experts would rather focus on how to change or improve it (probably assuming that most companies have one already). 

If most of the advice on how to change a company culture (i.e.: engaging people or listening to your customers) sound familiar to you, it’s because it’s nothing new. It all started in the 60s with the concept of Organizational climate which evoled in the 80s to become Organizational culture

Before trying to change it, it would help to understand what a company culture is. The first interesting thing we found is the fact that systematic differences in national cultures (according to a study conducted by IBM on 117,000 of its employees between 1967 and 1973). This can be explained by “four anthropological problem areas that different national societies handle differently: ways of coping with inequality, ways of coping with uncertainty, the relationship of the individual with her or his primary group, and the emotional implications of having been born as a girl or as a boy ” (more details on the site of Geert Hofstede, the author of the study)

The interesting things that we found is that there are different types of cultures: strong vs weak cultures, constructive, passive, and aggressive cultures, or the Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument which distinguished between four types of culture: clan culture (internal focus and flexible), adhocracy culture (external focus and flexible), market culture (external focus and controlled) and hierarchy culture (internal focus and controlled)

To make things even more complicated, companies can also have sub-cultures and mergers and acquisitions between companies will not result in the merger between the cultures of the companies that merge.

Since only defining company culture with its types and characteristics will require more than a blog post, we will dedicate the next three or four posts to provding more information on how to understand company culture by answering the following questions:

– How can decision makers find out what the characteristics of the culture of their company are?

– Is the existing company culture organic, imposed by management, or a mix of both?

– What are the pros and cons of the existing company culture?

In our opinion, questioning the concept of company culture and the existing culture that the company may already have in place is the first important step in improving a company culture.

 

How do you separate fact and fiction on-line?

The hacking of the Associated Press Twitter account and the tweet “Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured,” reminded us once again that much of the information we can find on-line isn’t always reliable.

In this TED video, Markham Nolan, managing editor of Storyful.com, explains how he and his team verify on-line information.

How do you verify the information you find on-line? Do you follow sources (e.g.: people, websites, etc.) which you trust so much that you don’t verify the information that they share? Do you sometimes double check by looking at several similar sources (for instance, the attack on the White House was not mentioned by any other news agency)?

What about the information that you use at work or in business? Do you verify it before making decisions based on it?

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