I will readily admit to growing up in a conservative household. It was not an ideologically conservative household (even if my mother did have a thing for William F. Buckley).

It was conservatism born of experience, hard lessons and humility.

My parents saw and survived the Depression. My dad fought in the Second World War. His profession was money management. And they were both solid New England Yankees.

They valued self-reliance, responsibility and principled civic behavior. They believed in those core ideas we are supposed to celebrate over the barbecue this weekend:  Freedom of conscience, vigorous public debate, the wisdom of the ballot box, and public institutions designed to protect the whole operation.

Their patriotism was true, deep … old fashioned.

It was also paid for. The names of a handful of cousins and brothers of my great grandfather are chiseled into the GAR statue on the common in Charlestown, New Hampshire. Their blood ran into the mud of more than one Virginia killing field.

An earlier relative’s flintlock musket use to hang over my aunt and uncle’s fireplace. Legend had it that it was used in anger against the Lobsterbacks in ’75 and ’76 … possibly at Bunker Hill (Breed’s Hill if you were a local).

As we enjoy the incredible bounty our forefathers and mothers made possible, I can’t help but worry that we have taken a bad turn as a country.

As I look at my young children, I wonder if they will ever feel the true feelings of liberty and patriotism that should be their birthright.

Somehow, as a nation, we are working overtime to circumscribe the respect for and protection of liberty. Freedom to be and think differently are under assault. As a result, honest faith and hope in our union … the real definition of patriotism … is being diminished.

One great –and constant- lesson my parents taught (pushed, cajoled, more like it), was to seek out the ideas, arguments –even friendship- of those who thought differently.

I can remember when Mormon boys would come by in the soaking heat of August, in shirt and tie, on bicycles, going door to door.

My reaction, of course, was total scorn.  Which brought a sharp rebuke from my dad.

He said, look at it their way! They believe in something important enough that they’d give up a million easier and funner things, leave home and approach total strangers about a message they probably don’t yet fully understand.  Admire their resolve and purpose!

And then he challenged me to consider what object or idea would cause me to drop everything and go knocking on doors … or some equivalent exercise in privation for a purpose.

Neither my mom nor dad were religious, but they encouraged deep respect for those who were. To them, religious nuts were preferable to smart, suburban kids who were a bit too smug and thought they knew things they didn’t. I can imagine my father thinking, “Well, at least they are working to figure it out.”

Where has this respect, even envy for the effort, gone? Why do we not approach all questions and arguments by first honoring conscience? Why do we not seek to understand?

These days we are all about pillorying those who think differently, say the “wrong” things or express things that are less than de rigueur.

No matter what you think may be true, recent events (not the least being last week’s Supreme Court decisions) are opening the door to an absolute melee against those who disagree, hold-out or otherwise argue with the “consensus.” The process (well described by Steven Pinker below) is both sinister and invidious.

The patriotism I was reared on honored the idea that win or lose, you forgave the foe and tried to part with a handshake. Now, as the career of one infamous tech CEO demonstrated, we favor public execution for the loser.

More disturbing is the enlistment of police powers to enforce consensus…which is now gnawing at nearly every corner of our commercial, political and personal lives.

We are steadily moving from rule “of the people, by the people, for the people” to the rule of potentates, supposedly wise but forever wanting.

Again, the idea we are supposed to celebrate this weekend was a union built on freedom of conscience, vigorous public discourse, and the wisdom of the ballot box, with public institutions designed to protect this modus operandi.

America has been about the best idea in all of history. She ain’t dead, but she appears injured. So maybe we should all spend a few quiet minutes this weekend thinking about whether and how she might be restored to health?

Great infographic in the Washington Post. The shark ain’t going to get you!

Go Swim

Think your job is hard? Check this out…

Land a $50 Million, 20 ton aircraft on a pitching carrier deck, in the dark. Just an easy day’s work.

Jun 8


Just a small dose of self-awareness can prevent a big case of self-parody.

The sad truth rendered accurately!


A few good thoughts on strategy from some successful people…

Strategy is first and foremost about the endgame….it’s pretty natural for me to be thinking five or six steps ahead… L.A. Reid, CEO of Epic Records

Indeed, strategy is trying to think out the game, and imagine how current moves will lead to others, that will lead to still others, and so on. Some will complain this is just guesswork and hunches. And so they are. But intuition really stems from a habit of mind, from practicing the art of trying to think ahead.

With strategy, the key thing is the ability to diagnose the opportunity of the time …(and then act on that opportunity). Doris Kearns Goodwin, historian, author of Team of Rivals

Notice that Goodwin does not say “diagnose the problem.” Good leaders and strategists quickly move beyond trouble-shooting. They are about moving to the next thing and not about lamenting the old, broken or lost.

There’s this fantastic quote from Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” I spend about 80% of my time thinking about the culture of our company – culture is our strategy. Danny Meyer, CEO, Union Square Hospitality Group

Indeed, culture matters. Organizations that are unified on principles and objectives, that tack to the same goal, that operate with mutual respect … these are the organizations that succeed. They win big on their own initiative and prove to be the most resilient when confronting major setbacks.

The old saying is strategy is great, but execution is better. Well, execution is impossible without strong culture.

The beauty of games is that one can try strategies and refine them without serious consequences… Klaus Teuber, creator of the board game The Settlers of Catan

Chances for success improve dramatically when leaders and business teams set aside time to test their plans. War games, simulations, “black hat” exercises -whatever you want to call them. They force organizations to confront reality without the risk of reality.

They also help ingrain the habit of thinking out and thinking ahead. So, if you aren’t gaming your plans, you should!

Sunday mornings in our house are hectic … no, crazy! The only smart one is the cat.


Getting everyone fed, cleaned up, dressed, in the car and somehow making it to church by 10:45 is a chore. It would be a lot simpler to throw a flag, skip the hassle, and just hang out.

I grew up in a home that did that. It’s a lot easier. Except for one thing: your attitude and outlook for the week ahead.

Hardly a Sunday morning goes by when I’m not frustrated to the point of yelling trying to get the operation underway and out the door.

But then we get to church. We get everyone to their proper destinations:  Sunday School, Nursery, Pew. And then the magic starts.

The music, messages, the scripture lessons, the sermon, the prayers, the smiles, handshakes and hugs. I’m lifted out of my selfish, problem-focused cast and renewed. I am realigned to what I can or have to do. I’m re-centered on the future. I am made small again so I can concentrate on what is large, outside me, and important. I go from dreading Monday to being excited about it. I go from taker, to giver.

Trust me, it is worth it. It is the best medicine I know to fight pessimism, cynicism and anger. No matter the depth of your belief (or skepticism) this medicine is available to you … whether on Sunday or Saturday, whether in Temple, Mosque, Church or Meeting House.

I’m reminded often of George Gilder’s comments that Commerce and Entrepreneurism are essentially acts of giving. That the business person or capitalist is first and foremost a person of purpose, out to change and improve life.

I think the lessons that come from faith and faith communities can help all of us get back on that purpose. They don’t require zeal or imply doctrinaire outlooks, per se’. But they do help us move from being certain takers to potential givers.

Maybe so…

Nice PR piece for Cincinnati’s largest tech incubator, Cintrifuse.

We have a strong entrepreneurial scene here, a ton of talent, and a great looking town to boot. It is a good place to live and work. Check us out whenever your plans require a stop in “flyover” country. It’s like a lot of famous places, only better!

My friend Joe Goldberg has written a novel. You should read it. It is good … VERY GOOD!


It’s a page turner in the grand tradition of international political intrigue. The subject is the espionage battle behind the “brief” conflict with Libya in 1986.

You will be reminded of other famous authors in this genre’ BUT the difference is that Secret Wars is informed from someone who was on the inside.

Joe was Director of Competitor Intelligence at Motorola when we first met. He has gone on to do consulting in the intelligence and political campaign space. But before all this, he was in the Agency.

When you know that people like Joe are or have served their country … have been willing to operate on the edges of civilized humanity in order to defend it … you sleep better at night.

This is Joe’s first effort. It is self published, so pass it on to your friends. And get on Joe’s radar so you can be in line for the next volume. Trust me, it’s that good!


Final Takes

SCIP 2015 is in the books. Atlanta and the Marriot Marquis was a great venue. As always it was great see old CI buddies, renew acquaintances, and make new friends. A lot of talented interesting and fun colleagues in this space!

The high points from Atlanta … some good key notes and panels. I especially liked the interview with Clay Mowry, President of Arianspace. Great perspective from a senior executive who lives and dies by intelligence insights … Just goes to show that even rocket scientists need intelligence!

The Great Debate session was indeed great … see below.

The Learning Labs and Marketplace-of-Ideas sessions were excellent additions to the typical mini-seminars that crowd the SCIP agenda. Too often in the past, mini-seminars were mostly thinly veiled vendor or author pitches. Not so with the Learning Labs and Marketplace-of-Ideas. Lots of aha’s going on in these sessions, lots of energy.

Overall, not as much negative vibe on vendors this year. And speaking of vendors, there were some interesting new technology providers that I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of.

Of course, John Thomson on his guitar, the band, and the Rock-n-Roll Dance Party were a blast.

And the low-lights:  Lower attendance and too high a vendor to practitioner ratio. Would have liked to hear from our board and missed the “state-of-SCIP” facts and figures. While Nan Bulger did a nice PR speech at the open, there is still a restlessness and worry among the membership that we are shrinking and not really leading professional growth and expansion. Some good sizzle but it is not at all clear where the bacon is.

The GREAT Debate!

Alysse Nockels emceed the best discussion / debate of the conference. Using a recent academic study as priming, the question is before the house: Has the association with “spying” and “dirty pool” forever tainted and stigmatized the profession? And therefore is doing intelligence in the business environment a bad idea professionally?

Craig Fleisher (SCIP Fellow, Aurora WDC Chief Learning Officer) argued for the affirmative case. Bad practices and high profile mistakes and failures have put CI behind the Eight Ball. Reputational risk, PR fear and a bad taste in mouths of senior managers continue to drag us down … and maybe we can’t break out? (Could say a lot in favor having survived the famous P&G vs. Unilever incident.) That’s the nut of the affirmative case.

Kevin Mann (IBM) took the negative! The reality is that despite the “stigma” the numbers don’t lie. 172 thousand LinkedIn profiles list competitive intelligence skills and experience. And relative to things like Stock Broker or Senator or even Lawyer and Chief Financial Officer, Competitive Intelligence Professional score higher in trust and reputation in surveys (as it should be!)

Kevin makes the excellent point that doing CI actually makes business professionals stronger, better thinkers, and stronger in terms of understanding ethics and principles. Net CI work should and does increase reputation of practitioners … whether they keep on in CI or move to other disciplines.

Bottom line of Kevin’s argument, CI makes stronger professionals, makes great and real impact, and are true guardians of ethics and principles.

I think Kevin’s argument wins … in a landslide.

Day 2 SCIP ATLANTA … afternoon and evening

Lots of good content today.

Lunch was divided into industry tables and I joined the Consumer Goods round. Not a lot of staples guys, but several retail and personal electronics friends. Good discussion and some interesting insights.

For those with a bent toward staples the demographic problem of slower family formation and a relatively poorer millennial generation is only exacerbated for retailers and consumer electronics players. The number of toys people are buying is not growing. And sharing toys is now de rigeuer for younger generations. What this portents for stock price multiples based on 4 to 6% market growth or higher, anybody’s guess! (What cannot go on forever, won’t.)


Lots of good fellowship and discussion last night at dinner. Many interesting companies, unique challenges, and the wonderful passion of CI people who want to “figure it out and get it right”.

Not so great start today. This morning’s keynote Keith Pigues (North Carolina Central University and Keen Strategy) did a bit of a retread from 2013 on his Differential Value Proposition thesis and book. It’s a good message but it was almost word for word the same speech as 2 years ago. And his style is loud and preachy which I think rolled over the audience. Here’s his message in a nutshell … it’s not enough to talk about putting customers first, you have to discover and measure how you make customers more successful:


Also, it would have been nice to have some remarks from the Board Chair Alysse Nockels to start off today.


Greetings from Atlanta … things are just getting underway at SCIP 2015. Attendance a bit down but Marriott Marquis is a great venue. The hotel was the setting for some of the Hunger Games filming. Very modern and funky architecture and on a massive scale. Will post pictures later.


First up today, a great key note! Intel’s in-house futurist Brian David Johnson. Funny, glib and, for once, not full of trend blather or laser-light nonsense. Rather, as he called himself, a “practical futurist”. Meaning that his method is disciplined, evidence based and hypothetical. Best of all, he rejected, flat out, the dystopian imagery of machines and technology running a dehumanized world … the stock and trade of many so-called futurists. His big thought. Human beings make the future, not history with a capital H. We should be optimistic and understand that we are the agents of tomorrow … not creepy technologies or scary forces beyond reckoning. Amen to that!



As promised … very cool!



Update on afternoon… Some very good sessions running most of the afternoon. I didn’t stay for the Frost & Sullivan future stuff which folks reported as being “pretty tired”. Which is too bad after the strong start by Brian David Johnson.

Trade show opened and was packed.  Indeed a lot of critique that of the approximate 500 attendees, nearly half seem to be vendors … or as we call them “solution providers”. Obviously, as a vendor, I have a conflict of interest. But the critique is fair.

I did attend a good learning lab event emceed by Craig Fleisher. Good, diverse group of mostly CI leaders, talking about solving the “one big thing” that is holding them back. Prioritization, focusing on breakthrough work, and establishing organization cred were some of the big issues. Below were solutions, captured from flip charts. I’ll blog on these ideas more at a later date, but the raw material is worth consideration…