Thursday, July 30, 2009

Competitive Intelligence

Hilary McLelland wrote a piece at Saratoga Media on Competitive Intelligence, where she talks about New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman and his book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization.

The short piece, "Competitive Intelligence in a Global Communications Age," talks to information arbitrage and story telling as ways to help people understand this new and more diverse world we live in.  Information arbitrage refers back to the practice of people who would buy a currency in one market and sell it in another, based upon knowing that there was a difference in value. Or, it could be pork bellies. With information is it the same way. You have some of value and you recycle it to someone else, for whom it is of even greater value.

Might be worth a read.

Regards  —  Cliff

3 comments:

The New Englander said...

Cliff,

Thanks for posting -- just gave the article a read. One thing it made me think about is that anyone with a computer and an Internet connection has instant access to so much information that intelligence agencies would have fought for as recently as twenty years ago. The old legend about how Soviet agents dug through our phone books like treasure troves always seems funny to us (in an open society we take something like the phone book for granted), but now, someone in Moscow could have all that information at the snap of a finger, without ever having to leave. Where there would have been an information arbitrage value for intel folks (or investors or anyone else) the playing field has leveled, maybe enough to inspire the title of Friedman's follow up..

I think OSINT is said to account for 70-80% of the entire intelligence "picture" so it's nice to know that modern technology we take for granted can help us understand what's going on around us...if that's what we use it for.

best,
gp

C R Krieger said...

Greg

I love the term OSINT.  It must have gotten its boost from the invention of moveable type.  A long time ago I read about an incident between WWI and WWII, when the Germans were denied by treaty a General Staff for their military, that a French newspaper reporter wrote a story that basically identified the members of the secret "German General Staff."  While I am sure I am mis-remembering the story, he was on vacation in Switzerland and was kidnaped by German agents, who demanded to know who leaked the information.  He responded, "No one, I got it from looking at photos at weddings and funerals and seeing who stood next to who." Before Kremlinologists scanned the top of Lenin's Tomb during the May Day Parade, for shifts in who was in charge, this chap did the same thing.

I am just an amateur, but I think the hard part in intel is to recognize when the straight line of events just took a turn.  I just finished the chapter in Body of Secrets that talks about the USS PUEBLO.  The author suggests that the clues to what North Korea might do were all there, but the right people didn't see them.


Thanks

Regards  —  Cliff

The New Englander said...

Cliff,

Nice anecdote about the putting of two and two together from the wedding/funeral pics. I love that type of stuff. I just hope no one tries to understand American society writ large by reading the NY Times wedding pages!

Did some sleuthing of my own on Bamford. Turns out the Agency cooperated with him on BOS, even though they fought Puzzle Palace tooth and nail. They were looking to do some image repair after Enemy of the State, and realized it might be a good thing to open the kimono somewhat. Also, Bamford was a former Navy Intelligence Specialist and he earned a law degree at night at Suffolk on the GI Bill.

One last thing -- Last night, I watched a PBS Frontline documentary that Bamford put together. He says something similar about 9/11 to what he says about Korea...he explains what the NSA knew about two of the hijackers but how the coordination failure screwed us..

best,
gp