By Dr. Ben Gilad, ACI Faculty

Do you know what it feels when the two keynote speakers you bring to an event are absolutely terrific?

I’ve been to events where the keynotes were celebrities. I’ve been to events where they were “motivational speakers.” I’ve been to events where they actually had only marginal relevance to the meeting. The rule of the organizers was to “entertain”, not actually inform.

I admit I don’t understand people who want to listen to these keynotes. Don’t they have Netflix for entertainment? Ted Talks for inspiration? For me they are mostly a waste of my time. Ok, I am impatient, I admit. When I go to a conference I want to learn something relevant and new. It can either confirm what I do from a new angle, or contradict it.

Now I know what terrific keynote speakers can do for an event, and the attendees of CI+Strategy event about the intersection of strategy and intelligence know too. In fact, they were captivated by the sessions with Paul Amos (a private equity director and former President of Aflac), and Sameer Bhatti (Vice President at Comcast).

Paul Amos (shown above) is a unique executive. Aflac is a unique company. Combine them both and you get a Porter’s dream come true. The story of Aflac is the story of relentless focus on very few strategic principles with agility to expand the product offering while sticking to its unique distribution model. Paul, in his capacity as a former President of Aflac Japan told the story of how an American company can come to dominate certain insurance markets in a country with very different culture against much larger domestic and foreign competitors. The audience was mesmerized.

Here is what a genuine executive perspective on strategy looks like. It’s NOT an analyst’s perspective.

The most pertinent lesson from Paul that resonated with me was simple but powerful: he described how he looked at competitive threats as opportunities, and showed specifically how he took advantage of the windows they represented. That was not an empty “inspirational” talk with trite slogans. That was a genuine executive perspective on strategy. It’s NOT an analyst’s perspective.

Sending biz news items collated by your vendor to executives is not CI. Sorry.

So analysts who want management to listen to them must heed this lesson. If you want to be an “information practitioner” sending vendor-collated biz news to people and calling yourself “CI”, don’t worry about it.

But if you want impact, do not just be about risk and “bad news bearer”. Offer options- “here are our opportunities”.  Easier said than done, but the ONLY thing that will get you the impact you crave.

Sameer Bhatti of Comcast (shown above) is a storyteller par-excellence. He should have his own talk show. He told the room full of data-driven, rational, analytical analysts that facts and more facts do not make the impact they hope on executives. That it is the narrative that makes the difference and it is clear from the changing landscape of marketing how narrative dominates information. If you have competition, for your products or your views, your narrative must drown all other narratives. Facts won’t make a difference.

You can imagine how difficult it is for market analysts to digest this perspective. The greatness of Sameer, a story teller par excellence, is that his narrative was so powerful, he got through.

The reason I asked Paul and Sameer with whom I worked in the past to come talk to the CI/SI/MI community was exactly because if we do not adopt the executives’ perspective and what interests them, we are dead.

If we don’t adopt the executive perspective, CI will die.

“Dying” for me is an option – I am old, somewhat accomplished in my own mind at least, and can retire tomorrow and live happily looking after my family under the Florida sun as long as I wear sunscreen 1000 SPF. It is not an option for you, my dear readers, who do competitive or market intelligence or “research” for a living. You better listen to Paul and Sameer.

If you missed this event, I feel sorry for you.

Ben Gilad is the President of the FGH-Academy of Competitive Intelligence which sponsors the CI+S event as part of its drive to train market, competitive and strategic intelligence analysts to have real impact on their organizations. The next training is June 11-15, in Burlington, MA and it includes both CIP-I™ and CIP-II™ programs. FGH-Academy of CI is the only IACET accredited provider in the CI training space.