One of the most challenging aspects of an intelligence professional’s role is learning how to exert power and influence at senior executive level. We’ve blogged in the past about the intelligence professional’s role as a ‘change maker’ in the organization – someone who has the ability to guide decision-making and to spur a change in direction when needed. However, for many intelligence professionals this notion is far removed from reality.
Being an advocate for change requires senior leaders that are receptive to new ideas and open to making a strategic pivot when the situation demands it. Your job as a Market or Competitive intelligence professional is to step in at that point and make a compelling case for change, one that challenges any entrenched views and biases in the organization.
We’ve put together 5 key steps to make a compelling case for change:
1. Perfect the art of persuasion
Some of the most influential business leaders are those that can lead through persuasion. It’s a vital skill for any seasoned CI professional. According to Sean Campbell, Co-owner of Cascade Insights and recently appointed SCIP board member: “If you’re going to affect some sort of change, in any company, with any findings you may have on hand, there is always a degree of persuasion involved. And Aristotle broke down the art of persuasion better than anyone else. Per Aristotle, establish the right balance between Logos (reason), which should always be critically important in a business setting, Ethos (logic) and in particular Phronesis (wisdom or insights), and Pathos (emotional appeal).”
2. Articulate the urgency of the situation
Capture the attention of your audience by explaining in vivid terms why you advocate a change in strategy. Of course, it’s not enough to pontificate the need for change, you need to outline exactly what needs to change and why. Are you facing a serious threat from a new market entrant or a new disruptive technology? Are you being undercut by low cost providers? Perhaps you need to accelerate an expansion into new markets or diversify into new product lines? Don’t be afraid to spell out the negative consequences that may arise if urgent action is not taken.
3. Be prepared to back up your figures
Before meeting with your senior management, make sure that you have all the salient research data and market analysis at the tips of your fingers. Your audience will not respond to obscure market predictions or gut feelings – they need logical facts and data from authoritative sources to back up each point you make. Your objective is to produce enough compelling evidence (stark facts and figures) to persuade and ultimately convince your leaders that action is required.
4. Explain worst case scenario and offset with solution
Sometimes you need to go for the shock factor in order to shake off deep-set complacency. They say a picture paints a thousand words. Reinforce your message by using powerful graphical visualisation to show, for example, the consistent loss in market share in the last three quarters, or a map highlighting the geographical regions where your competitors are gaining a strong foothold and where your product is in decline. Piece your research together (consumer research, market forecasts, sales figures, competitor intelligence etc) until it forms a compelling argument for taking decisive action.
Once you’ve presented the cold, unpalatable facts, you should swiftly put forward your solutions. How can the company avoid the doomsday scenario you’ve outlined? What corrective action needs to be taken? This is your opportunity to bring management with you. Remember, an ounce of action is worth a ton of theory so be ready to suggest immediate actions that should be taken in the short, medium and long term.
5. Meet resistance with perseverance
Fear of change is often more powerful than the brain’s reasoning, so be prepared for your message to be resisted. Most people prefer to appease and indulge rather than to stand alone and argue for an alternative approach. It takes courage to put across a differing perspective, but also a large degree of self-assurance that can only come from in-depth knowledge of the market you’re working in and having clear insights into how it’s going to evolve in the future.
Please share your tips or suggestions on how to make a convincing case for change in the comments section below.
If you have a story about how you managed to successfully advocate for change in the past, please get in touch with me orlaith.finnegan(at)digimind.com and we’ll feature it in an upcoming blog post.