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DECLARE YOUR INDEPENDENCE
Competitive intelligence professionals move from dependence to independence before
reaching complete interdependence stage. At the same time information management
evolves from a centralized to decentralized policy before power networking becomes a
reality. The environment sinks into chaos with increasing demand for homeostasis and a
defensive resort to groupthink. Conformity becomes a disadvantage at this time. The
competitive intelligence professional must respect prevailing group opinion while advancing
the case of cultural diversity and change to nudge management from their comfort zones.
Critical thinking skills are crucial to competitive intelligence professionals. The ability to
analyze is particularly important. Reasoning is a process that links analysis to conclusions,
bringing an answer to the strategic questions asked by the executives.
1‐ THERE IS A PARADOX BETWEEN WHAT EXECUTIVES SEEK AND “INFORMATION”
To cope with uncertainties, executives need linearity, stability, predictability, order and
control in a world dominated by complexity, systemic thinking, interdependence, disorder
and change. They seek a “social order” to perform and maintain normal change in the
internal environment, to cope with uncertainties, adapt to external change and create
internal conditions that will allow the organization to continue to live, function and grow
WHAT EXECUTIVES SEEK : HOMEOSTASIS REALITY : CHAOS
1. SIMPLICITY 1. COMPLEXITY
2. LINEARITY 2. SYSTEMIC THINKING
3. EVOLUTION 3. REVOLUTION
4. STABILITY 4. INSTABILITY
5. CERTAINTY 5. UNCERTAINTIES
6. CONTROL 6. INTERDEPENDENCE
7. CLARTY 7. AMBIGUITY
8. PREDICTIBILITY 8. IMPREDICTIBILITY
9. REGULARITY 9. IRREGULARITY
10. ORDER 10. DISORDER
2‐ THE GOAL OF COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE PROFESSIONALS IS TO RESTORE
The term “homeostasis” is used by physiologists to mean maintenance of constant conditions
in the internal environment. The different functional systems of the body contribute to
homeostasis through control mechanisms, adaptive systems and automaticity.
SUPPLIERS PRODUCTS AND
Competitive intelligence professionals seek to restore “homeostasis”, bringing clear answers
to external variations, trends and clues anticipating the future with little, if any, tolerance to
failure. Their main contribution to group performance is to help adjust the internal
environment to external change. This can be done through the capture of raw data (input),
its conversion into added value information, in a form that is more meaningful and
“actionable” (processing), and finally the distribution of the processed information to the
people or activities where it will be utilized (output). By helping executives analyze problems
and visualize complex subjects, competitive intelligence professionals create value and
3‐ THE CHOICE BETWEEN “ACCEPTABLE” AND “UNACCEPTABLE” CONCLUSIONS
A broad open‐ minded approach to different problems is needed if competitive intelligence
professionals wish to attain credibility and understand how the component parts of an
issue relate to the whole.
Sometimes the final report conforms with the
organization’s vision of the future and is “acceptable”
even with contradictory viewpoints. But what happens
when the result is considered “unacceptable” because its
content deeply challenges prevailing ideas within the
organization ‐ when competitors chose different strategies
using arguments that contradict those the experts within 4
the organization continue to develop? “Intellectual
cohesiveness” is threatened.
enhances group exchange
As Asch’s experiments demonstrated, many individuals will feel alone and upset if their
contribution does not correspond to those of the group. Many will therefore yield to group
pressure and clearly deny the conclusion(s) they believe to be correct. Rather than focusing
on environmental patterns of change, their objective becomes to avoid the group sanctions
that may vary from mild disapproval to complete rejection.
Those who have a strong need for structure or certainty, those who are anxious, low in self‐
confidence or concerned with the approval of others will seek group conformity, adapt their
conclusions to remain within the “comfort zone” where nothing happens unless in
conformity with prevailing group opinion. Those among us who strongly believe in their
contribution to the group’s performance will fight to implement new idea, structures and
change at the risk of being denied the right to evaluate, to interpret or to judge information
or data unless their interpretation strengthens the shared realities within the organization.
As shown by the dashed lines in figure 3 ,
“unacceptable” information will
progressively isolate 1A. Information will
be shared within the organization but only
among those who have accepted to seek
constant agreement and move within the
limits of uncertainties that have been
decided by the group’s leaders.
« Unacceptable »
If consensus is not respected, that
rejection will put an end to the
how ideas are shared
is more important
performance of 1A whose ideas have little and information paths.
than the expression of
if any importance to the group.
4‐ COMPETITIVE INTELLIGENCE PROFESSIONALS AND GROUPTHINK
Groupthink is the tendency of group members to seek agreement at the cost of critical
thinking. The group views itself as powerful and omnipotent. It shuts out information
that does not conform to increasing the pressure toward uniformity, and rejects the
expression of contradictory viewpoints. Even trusted outside opinions are adapted to
maintain conformity and prevail against cultural diversity. Many authors compare
groupthink to repetitive behaviors or controlling acts that are used to reduce anxiety.
These acts are intrusive, yet involuntary ‐ although incompletely controlled.
Like ritualistic cleaning behavior, such as washing one’s hands or checking things over
and over, groupthink is an attempt to prevent the occurrence of a feared and disastrous
event, which is the failure to adapt, adopt, control uncertainty, change, and perform out
of one’s comfort zone.
In organizations with tendency toward groupthink, competitive intelligence is
“tolerated” if it fulfills the “group conformity” mission.
In organizations with tendency toward groupthink, competitive
intelligence professionals are encouraged to seek group approval and
please others with “acceptable” conclusions.
In organizations having a tendency toward groupthink, competitive
intelligence professionals are invited to rely on “comfort zone leaders”. Their
beliefs are typically followed without discussion or dissent, driven by the “no
way back “ mentality of the organization, which views no reasonable
alternative other than the one favored by the “leaders”.
To resist conformity carried to its extreme, competitive intelligence professionals
must adopt a constructive attitude, use trusted outsider advisers and internal
mentors and support, a positive disposition towards information sharing, analysis
and synthesis. Such measures contribute added value and performance to free
the organization from groupthink.
Pierre Achard, M.D.
Global Strategy, Inc.