I was asked once to interview candidates for the role of competitive intelligence analyst for a major corporation. My first question was "why don't you hire from within and train the chosen candidate in CI techniques?". The manager in question thought that was a good idea, but he also felt that many of his staff would not be objective enough. He was right of course. There was a further issue which revolved around company politics. Executives who have worked for the company for many years are unlikely to be accepted as the company CI Analyst.
So we decided to do a little experiment. We decided to look for the most unlikely candidate, not the most likely. In other words, someone who had served the company well for many years and had a good appreciation of the brand - but who was a relatively junior member of staff and unknown in this particular area of the business.
We decided that we would train and mentor a young secretarial assistant called Julie in the role of Competitive Intelligence Analyst. Julie had all the credentials we needed. She was beautiful, bright and most importantly approachable. We knew that once trained that Julie would be able to do the most important job of all. Attract and absorb - competitive intelligence. And so it was that everywhere Julie went, people would share information freely with her.
Sure, we had to train her in CI methods and process. Sure we had to mentor her to understand the business models and market dynamics at play. Sure we had to nurture her through her lack of confidence in her own abilities at times.
But we got the most important thing from Julie in the shortest space of time.
The truest reflection of ourselves in relation to our competition ever.