Here is a remarkable Peter Robinson interview with former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. Not what you expect … Enjoy it!


Happy New Year!  Welcome to 2016 and to our annual Intelligence New Year’s Resolutions.

The last couple of years I’ve posted the same 4 critical resolutions for your competitive intelligence or “market reconnaissance” capabilities. These original resolutions are summarized below and remain as relevant now as when originally published. But to these 4 I want to add one for 2016: Don’t Wait to be Blessed!

I was recently discussing the challenges of organization change with my friend Becky Okamoto. She pointed out the common laziness and lack of personal leadership that are rife in organizations screaming for help, whether with personnel development or growing capability.

Borrowing her phrase, I see too many nascent (and established) intelligence groups waiting for some voice from on high to “bless the mission” and somehow sweep away obstacles to organizational uptake for intelligence.

Don’t wait!

The blessing and the sweep aren’t coming … or at least not in a form satisfactory enough to ensure success.

First off, many of your bosses and clients won’t understand what you are trying to do until you’ve done it. Second, chances are you won’t get it right the first time or two.

Intelligence is a fluid, trial and error enterprise. Focusing on “paint-by-numbers” action planning and organizational chartering is mostly a waste of time.  And waiting for a clear mandate from above is a sure license to fail.

Instead, go do it! Go make results and then build from your success. You can put wrapping on the intelligence gift after it’s opened … no one will remember that you acted before you got permission.


The original Strategy Shapers’ Intelligence New Year’s Resolutions…

Put Winning First … Our raison d’etre is (or needs to be) to help our firms succeed in the market. Too often we get wrapped around the wheel of process and forget this simple mission. In 2016, let’s put winning front and center. Read more….

Take Responsibility with Passion … Too many intelligence professionals adopt a dispassionate, stand-offish … dare I say, “clinical” … attitude to their work. They want to leave the hard work of “owning” decisions to others, to their bosses. If we want to make a deep and lasting impact on our firms … if we want a healthy profession … we need to stop this and join the team. Read more….

Take it to the Street … If we can’t translate intelligence insights into BOTH tactical and strategic actions that are practical and tuned to current market realities, whatever brilliance contained in our analysis will be lost. If we act like theorists and not like operations, marketing or sales lieutenants, then our impact on business results will be forever limited. Read more….

Think Financially … Good, bad or ugly, the world marks organizational success and failure in financial terms. All the best primary source evidence, analytical sophistication and analyst passion can’t overcome financial market opinion. So let’s not dismiss the Wall Street or Fleet Street point-of-view. Let’s understand it and make it part of our intelligence toolkit. Read more….

What resolutions and goals do you have for your intelligence team? Let’s talk about them. Add your comments or send me a note. Happy New Year!


Friends, 2015 has been another interesting and eventful year. Thanks to all who have supported this project. And thanks to my clients and friends who have afforded so many rewarding experiences and new (or renewed) lessons about life and business.

As I noted last year, so much of what I get to do is accumulate, translate, and distill your learning and then try to “pay it forward” to others. I get better as my friends and clients get better. What a distinct privilege to be a part of this transaction!

I do want to mention a couple of important business relationships that flourished in 2015 and I expect will continue to be critical to success in 2016.


First is SynFiny Advisors, a Cincinnati based financial management consulting firm founded by former P&G colleague Jeff Wuest. In addition to my day job, I am now leading SynFiny’s strategy practice and have been helping them with various client projects.

SynFiny grew steadily in 2015 by bringing to bear real-life, been-there-done-that experience to help clients transform the impact of their Finance & Accounting systems and organizations. I’ve gotten to tag along because more than a few SynFiny engagements turned up opportunities to work on overall strategy, bench-marking or competitive research. It’s been fun to watch this very talented group of folks make real impact on their client’s business.

If you have needs in Financial Planning & Analysis Transformation, Financial Systems Design, Shared Services and CFO support, SynFiny may be exactly who you are looking for!


Second is Aurora WDC, a Madison, Wisconsin based competitive intelligence focused firm led by brothers Derek and Arik Johnson. As a member of their G2 network, I continue to stay close to Aurora and will often refer clients to them when really thorough and detailed primary research is required. Aurora is among the best at executing this kind of work. They dig deep,  move quickly and efficiently, and deliver outstanding value.

I also like to recommend Aurora’s intelligence software platform, First Light. While the range of available competitive intelligence systems has improved greatly over the years, First Light remains on the cutting edge. And every new client implementation leads to improvement.

Bottom line, you won’t find a better group of people to work with in industry than the folks at Aurora.

And if you are starting to plan your 2016 calendar, let me suggest you join Aurora, the G2’s and leading Competitive Intelligence practitioners at Reconverge:G2 April 19 thru 21 in Madison. It will be a great event!

So whatever your fears, hopes or ambitions, I wish you only the best in 2016. I look forward to sharing the experience.

“Once more unto the breach!”

Here’s an excellent talk about the problem of international aid and the intervention of so-called “Western Experts” to “fix” health and poverty around the world.

Professor Easterly is eloquent on the core theme of my occasional posts about Climate Change, Food Policy and other sundry mad-cap ideas that motivate our elites. Namely that the pretense that “we know better” and must fix the problems of the developing world is both condescending and immoral. It disenfranchises our fellow human beings. And, as Professor Easterly notes, it kills!


All the state loving dandies are gathering in Paris to solve the “climate crisis”. Luckily, little will come of this. Gaia hasn’t cooperated with their grand schemes. The 20 year warming hiatus continues and may, in fact, be gaining strength.

Further, the Indians and the Chinese aren’t going to let overfed Western technocrats deny them their prosperity.

But what I find so ironic is the incredible strategic mistake made by climate fanatics. While screaming “denier” at us skeptics, they themselves denied the most fundamental science by picking the wrong bogeyman:  carbon dioxide.

Carbon dioxide is simply NOT a real pollutant or meaningful greenhouse agent. Instead, it is essential to life, especially the development and sustaining of biomass. Here is the proper perspective on carbon dioxide…

While dogmatic fanatics aren’t known for seeking knowledge and practicing introspection, the continuing vogueishness for educated people to believe in human caused climate change is starting to be unseemly. The consensus that never was is foundering on facts and evidence.

So, while it might have been fun to be a cool kid when the crisis was new and hip, now the whole thing is a foolish non sequitur:  Illogical and unscientific thinking, misplaced and misguided sympathies, all serving to put only the thinnest veil on the tyrannical intent to concentrate political power and stifle human freedom.

It is way past time to throw it off and concentrate on real problems.


Whether you ate hemp mush or quinoa sauteed in beet juice, I hope you were able to successfully escape the GMO bugbear over the holiday? It meant more GMO fatted turkey and dressing for me! I appreciate it.

If you so deprived yourselves, here’s something to think about.

The evidence continues to roll in that you too are a Genetically Modified Organism and are likely still modifying this very minute. There’s a fascinating teaser piece in Monday’s NYT on how agriculture changed European humanity. Eating grains and yoking animals forced our biology to change, a lot for the better, and some not.

(Which makes me wonder whether all this Paleo diet stuff might also run counter to our Genetically Modified selves? Although I note that Google turns up 1.6 million results for “paleo pumpkin pie” which means there are a lot of ways to avoid the refined sugar and white flour and still stuff your gut!!)

All a way to suggest that adopting religious zeal (and near tyrannical absolutism) about the food we eat really only marks us as idiots. Life it still too darn short and still too many in our world go hungry.

So how about we just work to pass around more pie?

Whatever your beliefs, know this:  You are lucky to spend a small time on this warm, lush and life-filled orb. Whether by chance or design, you have much to be thankful for. The hurts, disappointments and bad turns pass away. The manifest blessings of life march on. So pray!

If the only prayer you said in your life was, “thank you”, that would suffice.  Meister Eckhart

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.  Thornton Wilder

Now, let’s eat!


So read the Armistice order in November, 1918.  And the guns fell silent.

Today, the English speaking world Remembers … it is Remembrance Day, honoring the dreadful sacrifice of an entire generation on the fields of France and Flanders.

We in the US have broadened this holiday to honor all our military veterans.  Take a moment to thank them for their service!


American breweries

OK, so the other day I lampooned the strategy of consolidation by the mega-brewers. Here is a great series of videos discussing the craft-beer revolution that has caused such angst for ACME MEGA-BREW INC! They are quick and fun. ENJOY!

1) The first installment talks about the revolution brought on by deregulation -really, decriminalization- of home brewing:

2) The second installment shows the impact of the MEGA-BREW distribution network and the need to circumvent it in order for craft beer to thrive:

3) The last installment shows who benefits the most from you thumping down so much money to enjoy good beer. Any guesses? Yes, the government! Finishes with a good nod to how much more good beer might be available to you if we could cut consumption and excise taxes:


When you propose marriage you aren’t supposed to look desperate. But that seems to be the stance at Anheuser-Busch InBev, which just got jilted after its 3rd offer to buy SABMiller in less than a month.

The numbers are ridiculous:  $104 Billion to “buy” (a.k.a., merge) a structural basket case that is “big brewing”. Huge dollar mergers & acquisitions, followed by massive cost cutting, and then gi-normous fees for the consultants, bankers and executive parachute artists. This is what passes for “fixing” businesses that are being out-competed, fair and square.

The healthier the beer business gets, the worse the big brewers do. Why is this?

Simple answer:  Craft beers taste better and you’re willing to pay for them.

Instead of riding the value curve, the big brewers tried to capitalize on craft beer pricing to harvest margin as their consumption and market shares drifted downward. What used to be relatively cheap (24 pack cases of canned lagers), doesn’t look that way anymore. A few more bucks for a couple 6’s of the good stuff and who wants 24 cans of plain vanilla suds?

So all the big guys seem able to do is fight a massive rear guard action of merge and cut. They refuse to lower prices and force consumer choice or spur consumption. They can’t seem to stick with and grow new offerings. Their craft-like efforts tend to fall flat because of a lack of meaningful differentiation and local flavor.

What to do?

Rather than waste cash on mergers and ruin balance sheets with restructuring games, do the hard work! Cut prices and own the value message on core offerings. Pick credible innovations (e.g., fruit infused) and support them consistently. Do craft offerings but win on value … understand that you can’t “out local” the local guys.

As for competition, don’t simply try to beat out craft beers. Instead, look for ways to co-opt them. Share brewing capacities and distribution channels. Co-market, especially at major events and sports venues. Let the craft guys shine in the “great but expensive” department while you own the “good and inexpensive” territory.

The choices are not hard. The execution, however, is mighty difficult!

It requires “Big Brew” to accept the changed environment in which they find themselves. It also requires that they adjust their ambitions in ways that depart starkly from how they have traditionally conceived of themselves and their brands. In other words, they have to redefine what it means to be a leader.