Libraries, the universe and everything

Using Competitive Intelligence to build Leadership Capacity
November 13, 2014, 11:13
Filed under: Events | Tags: ,

It’s amazing what surfaces when you move house, isn’t it? Both packing and unpacking seem to throw up their share of surprises, things misplaced or simply forgotten. In this case, a post-move sort-out produced my notes from an SLA event I attended two months ago (just before the whole moving process began), and which I must admit I had completely forgotten about! Re-reading the points I had jotted down, I was reminded just how interesting I found the session, so I wanted to record the details here before I forget all about it once again.

Entitled “Using Competitive Intelligence to build Leadership Capacity”, and presented by the inimitable Zena Applebaum (seriously, if you ever get the chance to hear her speak, go), the event was made even more interesting by the fact that SLA Europe members joined us in NY via a live video feed.

At this distance my notes seem even more stream-of-consciousness than usual, but I’ve tried to make some sense out of them (and apologies to Zena as I’m quite sure I’ve totally mangled a number of her excellent points!)…

What is leadership?
confidence – fake it til you make it!
vision – not just abstract, high-level, but including information, knowledge and methods

As brokers of information, library & info pros are inherent leaders, and ideally placed to take advantage of the process of social influence, enlisting the aid and support of others to achieve common goals.

People like to connect dots and see pictures – we can connect the dots between people and things.

Social media is a great tool for social influence, especially for introverts! Use it as a bridge to get out there more.

Info pros need to be excellent collaborators.

People like to talk about themselves, so ask them! Build relationships whenever an opportunity presents itself, don’t leave it until you want/need something.

There are 9 types of collaborator (sidenote, why not try taking their quiz to see what kind of collaborator you are – apparently I’m a stealth ninja!). Not only is it helpful to know what type you are, it’s also useful to identify the types amongst the people with whom you are collaborating.

Zena then asked us to consider the question “who is doing your job”, and to draw a picture of our response.

Are you the go-to information person in your organisation, or are people looking to Google / McKinsey / insert-other-info-provider’s-name-here instead? Worse, is another organisation actually selling their work to your firm, when you could be providing it in-house? Who does your C-suite value more?

Better than Google
Smarter than McKinsey
An excellent communicator

But analysis scares [some] librarians! We’re trained to pull information together and pass it on, however analysis can be part of the process too.

Steps to success:
1. know your client
2. anticipate and meet needs
3. synthesize and analyse
4. tailor communications
5. market your successes
6. repeat

Know your organisation’s strategic vision and align with it.

Collecting information (e.g. about competitors/prospects/points of interest) isn’t enough – you need to look at trends or other indicators within that data.

– know your competitors and how you compare to them
– help your clients know their clients
– add value, help them see beyond what they’ve asked you for
– make time to follow news and blogs in your sector
– anticipate requests – e.g. know when the sales/strategy meetings are held and get info ready in advance, ideally before anyone asks you for it
– make sure your (and your clients’) responses are informed

Develop systematically:
– current awareness monitoring
– RFP responses
– early warning systems (retained counsel, changing market conditions, appointment notices, recruiting efforts)
– social media monitoring
– feeding human intelligence

Always be refining, learning, keeping intelligence up to date, and ALWAYS behave ethically!

Present info to people in the ways they like to receive it, and make it easy to read. Remember standard things like table of contents, executive summary etc. but also consider infographics, bulleted lists, whatever makes it more easily accessible. Try not to make things too long, but have full data set ready in case you’re asked for that too.

Remember that analysis is both a process and a product. Does what you’ve produces pass the “so what” test? Is it decision-ready, actionable?

Be candid about the limitations of your research / data – THIS IS OK! Don’t feel the need to apologise for not being able to achieve the impossible. [Sort-of-related-sidenote: as somebody else said to me the other day, sometimes it’s necessary to make it very clear that the task at hand is not possible without either more time, more people or more resources, and to put the decision on the desk of the person who made the request!]

Practice the art of concise communication, make it clear what the call to action is, and set timeframes. E.g. if you need someone to read and authorize something, consider saying something like “if I haven’t heard from you by the end of Wednesday I’ll assume this is ok to send out” (though of course you may need to follow this up with a call on Wednesday afternoon if it’s something sensitive!).

Market your success
– share your wins
– talk to people about what you do, don’t assume they know
– be proactive in taking credit

Find an excuse to get in front of people. Practise your elevator pitch, and make it about the bottom line – “I help members of this company make better decisions with the business research I produce”.

For further information: (fortnightly webinar series)
Aurora WDC
3 geeks and a law blog!


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