Steve Schulz, President at Line of Sight Group, and Kari Syrja , Head of Growth at Comintelli – give their valuable insight and answer your questions and more in our latest blog post.
Looking back at SCIP Intellicon 2022, it was an amazing event in so many ways. We enjoyed having the Intelligence community and our team back together in person to celebrate and talk shop. The Line of Sight team gathered early in Minneapolis, kicking the week off cheering the Minnesota Twins to victory. We even successfully turned our partners from Sweden, Comintelli, into Twin’s fans for life.
Line of Sight was honored to be a SCIP Intellicon Bronze Sponsor, exhibiting and meeting so many wonderful people throughout the three-day event. We are truly grateful and proud of our team and the connections that were made!
It’s always interesting to attend events, watch trends and compare the Intelligence function of today to when we started Line of Sight 20 years ago.
When I first started this business, there was a lot of focus on “gathering info and data.” Who is the competition? What, how and where are they selling and competing, etc? That’s what companies wanted – repositories of information on their industry and competition. Although deep data collection is a necessity, data alone isn’t truly useful.
Over the years, there has become a significant maturation and organizational value placed on taking data collection further, one step at a time – triangulating and analyzing the data into digestible, actionable insights. This is what gives leadership the vision and “line-of-sight” into the critical issues impacting their business and the confidence to make the right bets and moves – ahead of the competition.
With this evolution, we are seeing people from all functions of an organization get involved and play a key role in helping form or digest these insights to contribute to the overall strategy. And with this, there is certainly a greater acceptance that data gathering (and the people who do it) is a valuable investment. The Intelligence function is now often seen as a critical business function within organizations.
During Intellicon 2022, we had the opportunity to connect with many attendees about how Line of Sight can help an organization’s intelligence needs. From our Strategic Intelligence Program to Competitive and Industry Analysis, Line of Sight customizes programs to support resource-strapped strategy executives and intelligence teams that have different needs and budgets. Please reach out to us to learn more!
Our team looks forward to continuing to evolve and partner with the intelligence community. We had a great time connecting with everyone at SCIP Intellicon! Until next year…
Our team gathered this week to celebrate our 20 years in business. We kicked it off watching the Twins win in a 10th inning walk-off. Go Buxton! Thank you to our partners at Comintelli for joining us!
Next up: SCIP Intellicon conference. Visit us at booth 308! https://www.scip.org/page/SCIP-IntelliCon2022-Competitive-Intelligence-Conference
As we celebrate 20 years in business this holiday season, our thoughts turn to those who helped shape our business over the years.
We have accomplished amazing things together and we are incredibly thankful for your partnership – either now or in the past. Attached is a card to say thank you!
In the spirit of giving, Line of Sight Group is making a donation in your company’s name to Urban Roots, a Saint Paul organization whose mission is to cultivate and empower youth through nature, healthy food and community.
Sincerely, Steve, Sara, Jen, Jennifer, Erin, Kristi, Teresa, Wayne and all of our associates including Kim, Keisha, Jane, Sonal, Vivian, Allie, Jordan, Emma, and others.
Line of Sight Group
Celebrating 20 years of business in 2022!
Gratitude is emerging as a dominant change adults want, once the pandemic and other major changes of 2020 are over, according to an ongoing study from Ignite360. The emergence of the gratitude sentiment is an example of a societal change driver. Author Volpe insists that it’s time for action and companies must be proactive, rather than reactive. What opportunities and threats does it represent for your organization? How will your business respond? How will your marketing messages change?
Market and competitive intelligence capabilities, therefore, are more critical than ever. The Line of Sight Group team is thankful to work with customers who understand the power of data and insights! We are always ready to help!
When I guest lecture with the MBA students at the University of St. Thomas, I often begin with a question: “What do the following have in common?”
“They are all extinct!” comes the response quickly.
“Why?” I say. “Why are they extinct?”
“Because they failed to adapt.”
“Adapt to what?” I tease.
With a bit of exasperation, they respond with something like this: “CHANGE!! THEY WERE UNABLE TO ADAPT TO CHANGES IN THIER ENVIRONMENT.”
“EXTERNAL,” I add. “Unable to adapt to changes in their EXTERNAL ENVIRONMENT.”
In order to adapt to changes in your industry, you first have to understand what industry change is. Next you have to know what to look for. Then, when a change is recognized, you have to know whether or not it is important, and if so, only then should you make plans to act on it.
Understanding Industry Change
Industry change is EXTERNAL. It originates from outside the organization rather than internally. Market demographics, technology, customers and competition are examples. These external factors, called ‘change drivers’, are less controllable, harder to forecast and can be more disruptive than changes that originate internally in an organization. Just think about the dramatic effects that the Coronavirus has had on our economy and entire way of life in 2020!
Industry change is also RELATIVE. All organizations have several fundamental relationships. In fact, a business organization is defined by relationships with its customers, employees, suppliers, investors, lenders, government regulators, communities in which they operate and other stakeholders. And while firms may not have relationships with direct competitors, they are perceived relative to competitors and substitutes by customers and others.
As industry stakeholders respond to external changes, these relationships change, and it is the changes in these relationships, within the context of the external change drivers, that are important in understanding adaptive change.
- The dinosaurs lived in an environment that allowed them to flourish until, of course, climate change would eventually wipe them out.
Monitoring Industry Changes
Start at the end. The first step is to know what to look for. It is well known that data volumes are exploding. In 2016, it was written that more data had been created in the past two years than in the entire previous history of the human race.  Luckily, only a small fraction of that data would ever be relevant to your organization.
By starting at the end, and determining what the data would be used for, it is possible to focus your efforts. For example, when considering how to not become extinct, the data that would represent a threat to our existence is most important. Best practice organizations start by defining a set of ‘key topics’ based on the assumptions in their current strategic plan or potential opportunities and threats, and are used to guide their change monitoring activity.
- In 2000, when Reed Hastings, the founder of a fledgling company called Netflix, flew to Dallas to propose a partnership to Blockbuster CEO John Antioco and his team, Hastings got laughed out of the room. While Blockbuster had paid attention to its retail competitors, it did not recognize a business model that relied on sending DVDs through the mail as a threat. 
‘Movie’ versus ‘snapshot’. Change, of course, happens over time. Changes in the external forces and stakeholder relationships can only be recognized using a longitudinal approach, which compares data points in time. Most organizations today find themselves in a world where the pace of change is fast and accelerating. Best practice companies do constant surveillance and continuous updating by an individual, group or outside partner with this responsibility. The U.S. military may have the world’s best capabilities for this, as designated intelligence officers constantly gather intel from the front lines.
- The demise of pay phones was a predictable result of the adoption of cell phones. It was easy to see the adoption curve and predict when the large carriers would exit. Sprint left the business in 2006. AT&T exited two years later, and Verizon got out in 2011. 
So What? Just because change is occurring and relevant to an opportunity or threat, doesn’t mean it is important. To understand if the change is significant, it is necessary to apply relevancy filters such as: Is the data real or is it only an outlier? Is it outside of expectations? What is the size of the change? What market segments are being impacted? What are the possible consequences and implications of the change? This is where human analysts with knowledge of your business, aided by text analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) tools, apply their experience and raise red flags where appropriate. These red flags are called out in the regular updates and summary reports routinely circulated to managers and executive teams.
- In BlackBerry’s downfall, managers didn’t take seriously the idea that the market was changing. BlackBerry’s leadership was based on enterprise and government markets, and never took the consumer market, and Apple’s iPhone, as a serious threat to its business. At least not until it was too late.
“BlackBerry proves that Andrew Grove really did have it right when he said, ‘only the paranoid survive.’ That’s probably the best lesson CEOs can take away from BlackBerry’s fall.”
— Craig Hanson, General Partner, Next World Capital 
What Now? Once recognized as important and relevant, executives can begin making plans for appropriate response. The first step in the response planning is a ‘deep dive’ analysis that is focused on the specific opportunity or threat to check assumptions, manage risks and develop a set of strategic options. Those options can further be played out in scenarios or war gaming exercises.
Acting on Intelligence
Ultimately, adaptive change means that executives must make investments and allocate resources to address the opportunity or threat. These are the ‘bets’ that executives make and are at the core of business strategy. Developing and utilizing a systematic process for gathering industry, market and competitive intelligence enables executive teams to make those bets swiftly, efficiently and confidently.
Last week, one of Line of Sight’s clients won an award for her contributions to her company’s market insights and competitive strategy initiatives. Melissa works at a large, multinational organization in our healthcare vertical market, and leads the market research efforts at one of their main divisions. We assist her in collection, analysis and reporting on competitive and industry change drivers, and managing that content on our cloud-based intelligence platform – Intelligence2Day.
Congratulations to Melissa and her entire team!
I just wanted to let you both know that yesterday I won a team award for CI in Marketing, and a big reason is because of all the hard work that LoSG has done and the partnership you’ve had with us. I just wanted to thank you and let you know how appreciated you are!!! You’re the best Kristi – you do such fantastic work!!!
Market Research Analyst | Strategy and Marketing Analytics
In mid -March of this year, when the coronavirus began shutting down schools, businesses and our normal way of life, the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran an interview with Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. In it, Osterholm discussed some of the frustrations of being the voice of impending change, which policy makers really didn’t want to hear, and why the message was ignored until too late.
An Early Warning
In his 2017 book “Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs,” Osterholm sounded the alarm on coronavirus diseases’ disturbing combination — they have a relatively high mortality rate and can spread rapidly in humans. In the last 20 years, outbreaks of SARS and MERS (in the same viral family now fueling the COVID-19 pandemic) did not go global, but they were “harbingers of things to come.”
In January he said, to a group of organizations he advises, “I now am absolutely convinced this is going to be a pandemic. This will be a worldwide epidemic. We will see major transmission around the world. And, what has happened in Wuhan will happen in other places.”
“This to me was the equivalent of someone standing on a beach, a beautiful sand beach on the Gulf, beautiful blue skies, not a cloud in the sky — but 500 miles south of there is the biggest low-pressure system we’ve ever seen. We should have been telling people back then, this is going to be like a Category 5 hurricane.”
Resistance to the Message
Osterholm cites key reasons why policy makers were so slow to respond.
- A sense of invincibility. Osterholm says, “We had almost this sense of invincibility that we had a border that would not allow such infectious-disease agents to penetrate …. We, of course, know that is folly.”
- Little understanding of vulnerability. “[There has been] no real understanding of the vulnerability of this country outsourcing all of its drug supply manufacturing to places like China. And, when you don’t understand all that, or elect to neglect it, it’s easy to say another day went by and nothing happened.”
- Lack of creative imagination for possible scenarios. “People who knew health care knew [it had been] carved down to the bone for which there was no resiliency of any substantial nature, no excess capacity, no monies to stockpile large volumes of protective equipment.”
- Perceived distance. A common response was, “Well, that’s in China.” Osterholm explains that people didn’t understand these viruses don’t adhere to political boundaries — geographic areas are just another place for them to go
- Resistance to objective evaluation of risk. People were wanting to believe this was a low-risk situation, but Osterholm and others were saying, “No, no, no.”
Leadership and Strategy
Osterholm states that changing behavior in response to the pandemic requires addressing both the “heads and hearts” of people. While factual data appeals to the ‘head,’ leadership appeals to the ‘heart.’
“How are we going to start dealing with both the hearts and the heads of the citizens of this country, and for that matter the world? And, we have to understand it’s going to be more than just giving them factual data or information. This is where leadership is really key. It’s important we don’t forget this piece.”
The interview closes with this Q and A:
Q. “Are you hopeful about new potential treatments for COVID-19, such as chloroquine, that are being studied right now?”
A. “I am hopeful, but hope is not a strategy.”
For leaders of organizations, the lessons are clear. Paying attention to the external environment can be both difficult and uncomfortable. It might require reconsideration of earlier strategies or acknowledging that some things are beyond your control. You may not want to hear it.
Whether it is unprecedented environmental change, like a global pandemic, or subtle change in your industries or markets, it is important for leaders to use unbiased data in their decision-making process, assess the magnitude of change and the associated risks, evaluate the needed capabilities to respond, and muster the courage to confidently communicate and lead.
In other words, ‘hope’ is not a strategy.
In the wake of the death of George Floyd on May 25th and the ensuing protests and riots in our hometown of Minneapolis/St. Paul, some of our clients around the country are taking time this week to hold sessions with their employees to reflect on the systematic racial injustice in our country.
We at Line of Sight Group stand in support of our client’s actions, as well as all who have been and will continue to protest peacefully and work for real change.
We are data people. We believe in the power of facts. We help our clients every day by delivering objective data and insights that help them identify opportunities and threats to make informed business decisions.
In the spirit of objective data, below are some statistics we have curated regarding racial disparities in the states where we live. We’ve done this not only to bring light to these facts, but also to bring ourselves closer to it and help us all understand that we are part of the problem and must be part of the solution.
We support our clients, organizations and individuals who are working to make our world a place where fairness and justice exist for all people. We pledge to do our part as well.
- Children in Poverty: White-not Hispanic (6%) and Black/African American (33%) 
- MCA III test scores show that by Grade 4 Black/African American students are falling behind their white peers in reading: White-not Hispanic students (65% proficient) and Black/African American students (31% proficient) 
- Twin Cities ranked 4th worst place for Black Americans
- Twin Cities ranked 92nd out of 100 metros for racial equity 
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Missouri had a population of 6,137,428 in July 2019. The white race represented 83%, while black or African Americans comprised 11.8%.
- In 2019, approximately 6.21% of the vehicle stops of Blacks and 6.34% of the stops of Hispanics resulted in arrest, compared with about 4.55% of the stops of whites 
- In 2017, roughly one in five Black/African American young adults between 16-24 years old is neither in school nor working
- Black Americans account for about 13% of the U.S. population, but 24% of the coronavirus deaths. In Missouri, blacks account for 12% of the population, but 37% of coronavirus deaths 
- As of December 2019, Black/African Americans constituted 5% of Colorado residents, but 17% of people in jail and 18% of people in prison 
- In 2018, Black/African Americans represented 4% of the adult state population, but accounted for 12% of arrests/summonses and 11% of adult district court filings 
- Nationwide, a black person is 3.64 times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana than a white person. In Iowa, however, a black person is 7.26 times more likely to be arrested
- Out-of-school suspensions. Nationally, African American students (13.5%) are suspended at about four times the rate of white students (3.4%). Six Midwestern states (including Iowa) suspend black students at more than five times the rate of white students 
- Out-of-school suspensions. Black students were 5.4 times more likely to face out-of-school suspension compared with white students. New Jersey tied with Iowa as the fifth-worst state for black-white disparities 
- Black children are four times more likely than white children to enter foster care in New Jersey 
Also…in the spirit of being fair and unbiased, we also looked for statistics that describe disparities that favor African Americans. We are pretty good researchers but, unfortunately, we could not find any…
 A Statewide Crisis: Minnesota’s Education Achievement Gaps (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis): https://www.minneapolisfed.org/~/media/assets/pages/education-acheivement-gaps/achievement-gaps-mn-report.pdf?la=en
 2018 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey https://mn.gov/admin/demography/news/annual-statewide-summary/2018-acs-release.jsp
 MPR. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2019/06/17/minnesota-no-4-in-child-wellbeing-but-among-worst-in-racial-disparities
 NAACP. https://www.twincities.com/2019/12/06/twin-cities-ranks-92nd-out-of-100-metros-for-racial-equity-naacp-report-finds/
 Missouri Vehicle Stops 2019 Annual Report
 2019 Equity in Missouri Higher Education Report
 Colorado Dept. of Public Safety, October 2019 (pg. 9) http://cdpsdocs.state.co.us/ors/docs/reports/2019-SB15-185-Rpt.pdf
 ACLU Report: https://www.aclu-ia.org/sites/default/files/tale_of_two_countries_racially_targeted_arrests_in_the_era_of_marijuana_reform.pdf
 Race in the Heartland. University of Iowa and the Iowa Policy Project. Colin Gordon. October 2019. https://files.epi.org/uploads/Race-in-the-Midwest-FINAL-Interactive-1.pdf
 Why are black, hispanic students suspended more often? NorthJersey.com. https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/education/2019/03/22/nj-has-one-nations-worst-racial-gaps-school-suspensions/3140484002/
 WNYC investigation of data from 2009-2013. https://project.wnyc.org/nj-foster-care/