Corporations strive to be successful in their chosen markets. Trying to win the hearts and minds of consumers is a relentless, on-going battle that can be both costly and exhausting. Organisations can learn from military strategists and use information to develop successful economic strategies.
There are plenty of examples from military strategists past and present. Many have a similar theme - fight wars on your own terms. Do not spend hundreds of thousands of dollars just to achieve a single victory that only results in creating a vengeful enemy.
A little-known historic example of this comes from Queen Elizabeth I and her battle with Spain. The full extent of her strategy is often overlooked and not applied as much as it should be.
The Queen and her kingdom had been devastated by civil war. The treasury just did not have enough money, despite her idea to create a prosperous kingdom.
At the same time, King Phillip II of Spain had been threatening to invade. In 1588, 130 ships formed the Spanish Armada and set sail to try and defeat the far smaller English army and navy.
So how did Queen Elizabeth achieve victory?
Most accounts of the English victory focus on the speed of the ships and the exploits of Sir Francis Drake. However, Elizabeth I also had a secret weapon in Sir Francis Walsingham, who was popularly remembered as her "spymaster". He built up an ongoing spy network by utilising the merchant fleet and passing information back to England about intentions and preparedness of Spanish Armada.
Queen Elizabeth I also utilised a new type of warfare, economic. She knew that Spain had a weak economy and that shipping routes between Spain and her Colonies had been successfully compromised by Sir Francis Drake.
Translating this to today’s business environment, it is clear the size of a competitor does not always mean they are in a stronger position. Strength can be gained through knowing more about a competitor’s intentions, finances, in-house morale, centralised control and other important elements.
Knowing your limits as organisation is the imperative, regardless how wealthy and logistically strong you are. History has proved that less financially viable opponents are more likely to improvise and utilise fewer logistics and spend less money to prevail in the market.
In today fast-moving world, one thing that is accessible to everyone is information, regardless of how strong you are as a corporation. Furthermore, the reduction in physical travelling and increased use of video link platforms, make the perfect scenario for intelligence operatives. The source of information is no longer inside corporate offices but residing with individuals. This creates additional risks that are hard to manage within a traditional risk management matrix.
Corporations should choose carefully which competitors and markets they are seeking to dominate as there will inevitably be some losses along the way.
The true danger lies with miscalculation and misinterpretation of the available intelligence - or
valuable information. Where it is not possible to verify the source and validity of information, it is quite likely the information can be part of a planned deception by a competitor to sidetrack you and get you to ‘fight’ them on their own terms.
In the world where information is power, success can come from applying and utilising investigative intelligence with human intelligence methods and applications to help prepare the organisation for the battles and counterattacks that lie ahead. Creating an intelligence and counter-intelligence cycle through harnessing human intelligence will assist in the execution of winning corporate strategies.