By Dr. Ben Gilad, ACI Faculty

The Academy just completed its June 2015 program for CIP-I and CIP-II. Several dozen newly minted, elite analysts will now go back to their companies and hopefully wreak some havoc. If they don’t – I failed. If they still think their future is in being a glorified librarian or social media crawler with “tradecraft” magic, they will.

Each program carries some lessons. Each program teaches us something. Even an old dog like me can be trained; or at least temporarily pointed in the right direction. Here is what I learned from this group. This is just me and I do not speak for the entire ACI faculty. Our strength, as one of the participants commented to me, was in preserving and presenting different perspectives on the activity, based on our different experiences. It makes our program rich. Anyone who thinks there is only one way to do CI has never actually done CI…

Our motto
Each of our programs over the years reinforced my conviction in the basic tenets of how we teach the art and science of skillful CI. We all agree CI is composed of a cycle that starts with data, goes through analysis (or synthesis), gets communicated to those who should use the result, and then is built into an organizational memory. Our faculty has focused in their studies and practice on different parts of this cycle. There are many ways to execute the various parts. At the end, though, our curriculum and interactive instruction methods are aimed at the same thing: giving our CIPs a wide arsenal of tools to have an impact.

Because impact builds careers. That’s the reason our CIPs are the most successful in the field. And that makes me proud.

What did the “newbies” teach me?
1. More and more managers have CI as part of their jobs. The dedicated position for CI is a thing of the past. We are still The home for the dedicated professional (unless you think an online slide show can train an elite troop), but our program is netting a wider and wider audience, encompassing the roles of part timers, lone rangers, and more importantly, all market facing managers and their analysts.

2. Despite it being just part of their day job, the participants in our CIP program were as enthusiastic about true CI as the “Director of CI” of yore. They were also as disenchanted with the prevailing perception and training in the field as ‘information human search engines’.

3. There is a growing trend of managers who initiate the CI program in their company! This is new. A classic case is a manager who tells us his company decided it will give CI a priority but then did little. He takes on the assignment without any resources or executive marching order and he will make it work. That kind of intrinsic incentive is very different from someone appointed to the position and suggests a brighter future for CI than I foresaw in the past. When management tells you to “fetch”, you have no choice. When you decide the company can benefit from CI, you go for the strategic. You make your own choices.

4. Everyone wants to have an impact. This is the strongest drive. The realization that as information fetchers they can never have real impact is now universal.

5. Many managers are at the same time worried, fascinated and fear the “revolution” of big data analytics. I mean, true analytics, not search “analytics.” In this last program we introduced a marketing professor from Boston University and she took our CIP-II candidates through a whole day of analytics. Some struggled. They know it is important, they just don’t think they have the background. We will get better at delivering the essence of analytics and how to use it without getting bogged down by the technical aspects (statistical underpinning). We will keep pushing this subject as we are the only ones who truly teach it to people who need to stop fearing it and seeing it for what it is: One more tool in the fight for management attention.

6. We work the participants hard, including evening courses. I thought they’d complain. When we offered to move some of these courses online, they expressed a commitment to working hard. They didn’t mind the long day. They didn’t come to network, shop or attend free drink sessions sponsored by vendors. That’s what training is all about.

Thank you class of June 2015!