Ever since I left the business of strategic intelligence quite publicly a few weeks ago, I haven’t really been discussing the industry that much. My mind has been on other, broader vistas for the most part. Still, it is an area of my expertise, and if you read between the lines of my article, it’s not that I thought competitive intelligence or futures is worthless, per se – it’s just that the dynamic is unhealthy and needs serious repair. Thus, there are likely still going to be people working – and succeeding in the fields of CI and foresight in the years to come, and they will need the best information and advice in order to succeed. This is why when I received a copy of John McGonagle and Carolyn Vella’s Proactive Intelligence: The Successful Executive’s Guide to Intelligence and was asked to write a review, I still snapped up the opportunity.
In short, this book is an extremely detailed, cogent guide for any executive who will be asked to take on competitive intelligence as a competency, duty, or discrete role. Florid prose, this is not. Philosophical, high-minded treatise, it is neither. If you have a job to do and no time to figure things out blindly, this is all the better. Proactive Intelligenceis a dense, well organized, concise tome for basically every concept you could possibly encounter in a traditional competitive intelligence role. CI is a mature discipline, there are many best practices, and this book appears to cover them all. From definitions of the specific kinds of intelligence – competitive, technical, strategic – to the variety of customers for CI – sales, R&D, product management, mergers & acquisitions – even to the legal and ethical challenges of the field, there really is every concept covered within these pages.
This is not a cheap book, when compared to romance novels or even the bland conjecture about how Apple has changed coat hangers, or whatever, that passes for business books these days. The hardcover is around $100. It’s cheap. This is not a beach book, it’s the kind of thing you will need if you get an email from the Senior Vice President of Business Development that – surprise – you are now in charge of the CI function for the whole company. You will have a few days, maximum, to get up and running. If that were me in that position, the first thing I would do would be to buy this sweeping, complete manual by two of the top experts in the field.