Image: António speaking at the EACD coaching day in Lisbon on competitive intelligence for business communications / Photo: Rui Martins

Information is all around us. In fact, it is so ubiquitous that a more pressing question than how to access data is how to deal with the excess of information: where to look for and how to deal with the results. This is the trilogy of phases is research, analysis and communication.

Possessing the entire information may be the ideal for efficient decision making, but, as anyone who has had to make a complex decision knows, getting hold of and understanding all the information possible about a given subject is something from the realm of utopia.

The problem is always the same: obtained data represents the past, decisions represent the future. The first exempts human participation, the latter demands the presence of inspired intelligence.

"Change is the law of life. And those who look to the past or present are certain to miss the future" – John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

A strategy for decision-making in a V.U.C.A. world.

We live in a time of volatility and uncertainty filled with complex and ambiguous scenarios. Faced with this, our job is not to find order in disorder, but to anticipate and be prepared for eventualities, understand opportunities, and, by combining data, thoughts, impressions and ideas, move towards a decision. How we use competitive intelligence for business decisions will be the key to navigating this landscape.

The decision making process has to deal with various unknown factors: excessive information, daily pressures and personal egos. Yet the instability we seen in the world obliges us to treat decision-making like a chess game, analyzing all possible scenarios with the available data. During the decision making process, strategy has to go beyond the immediate response and be anchored in a clear direction.

By cross-referencing your information and letting market trends define clear objectives, you will add the human touch that no machine could ever reproduce.

To  quote JFK again: "To be courageous (…) requires no exceptional qualifications, no magic formula, no special combination of time, place and circumstance, it is an opportunity that sooner or later is presented to us all."

A decision is more than just a product of experience. It requires rational and emotional input. The alternative is like putting a coin in a machine and pressing a button. You’ll get a decision, but only a mechanical one. It might give you a degree of comfort, but it won’t guarantee success. That is not enough for a long term strategy. In the search for effectiveness we need to combine intelligence with emotions. 

António Rodrigues is a lawyer, legal consultant, author and columnist. He is also a former member of the Portugese parliament, MEP,  professor of law and member of the Oversight Committee of Portugese Intelligence Systems, World Bank and UE expert on missions to Angola and Cabo Verde.