Business Law

Learning About CI at SLA

David Adler | Scholarship Winner |

David is a Senior Competitive Intelligence Librarian, Bingham McCutchen

This year with the chapter’s generosity, I was able to attend the SLA Annual Conference in Philadelphia. Listening to Thomas Friedman who was the Opening General Session Speaker was very enjoyable. Mr. Friedman spoke about globalization and the need to think about the way we do our jobs. We are living in an age where individuals can and must act globally. Mr. Friedman noted that in the future the world will be comprised of High Imagination Enabling Countries (HIE) and Low Imagination Enabling Countries (LIE). He challenged the audience to find the innovation within themselves. Mr. Friedman stated that if you do not act upon your idea, then someone else will. He noted that the days of “average” are over and that employees must reinvent themselves and their jobs to survive. Employers want employees with critical thinking and reasoning skills. Focus on these skills will help employees avoid their work being automated, outsourced or downsized. I found these points to be very relevant.

Because I do competitive intelligence (CI) in a law firm, I focused my track on legal and CI related sessions. I was not disappointed. There were discussions revolving around challenges of CI which include understanding the needs of your clients, designing and creating intelligence products and measuring the effect of your deliverables. How CI is perceived within the law firm was also discussed. Companies need to realize that their competition does not always mean their competitor. A competitor can be market change or new legislation or even an individual. When looking at the landscape that one operates in, one must keep these variables in mind to be successful. Your competitor today might not be your competitor tomorrow. I also learned that in order for a group to be effective in CI, one must understand the client and the competitive landscape that the client is in. The concept of Actionable Intelligence was discussed and the role that CI plays in the decision making progress was also mentioned.

Mary Ellen Bates, what can I say? A lot actually. She is always a pleasure to listen to and she did not disappoint. She discussed ways to describe what you do to your clients and various ways to market yourself. She recommended that when describing your work, focus on the WHY not the HOW or WHAT. Ms. Bates stated that each client interaction is a teaching moment and that speaking a client’s language is critical to explaining the services you can offer. To me these are excellent points.

There were hundreds of vendors there and I managed to stop by a majority of them. Most of them were products with which I was already familiar. However, there were a couple of vendors that seemed to focus on due diligence which was interesting.

I was able to network with around 50 people from companies that I previously did not know. I was able to make great connections. Speaking with them was very educational to me.

Overall, it was a great experience and I thank the chapter for giving me the opportunity to go.

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