How often do you read articles from the same sources and continue practices that you are comfortable with—without questioning your assumptions? I focus on research, competitive intelligence and cooperative intelligence and found “Think the Answer’s Clear: Look Again” a recent NY Times article a great example of questioning your assumptions. Dr. Donald Redelmeier, a physician researcher published a study in 1997 in the New England Journal of Medicine which concluded that driving while talking on a cellphone was as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. While commonly believed today, this was news in 1997!
Dr. Redelmeier has conducted several studies around behaviors while driving since he believes “Life is a marathon, not a sprint,” and “A great deal of mischief occurs when people are in a rush.” One of my favorites is around the psychology of changing lanes in traffic. “You think more cars are passing you when you’re actually passing them just as quickly. Still, you make a lane change where the benefits are illusory and not real.” Meanwhile, changing lanes increases the likelihood of a collision about threefold!
Dr. Redelmeier says it so nicely, “Do not get trapped into prior thoughts. It’s perfectly OK to change your mind as you learn more.” He extends this belief not only across his research quests and findings, but also in his practice as a doctor. He is more likely to intercept diagnosis and treatment errors at an earlier stage since he is willing to change based on new information. I want to be treated by a doctor like Dr. Redelmeier.
Dr. Redelmeiers’ practices can be adopted by competitive intelligence and research professionals. He is a critical thinker who observes behaviors, questions them and conducts research which proves or disproves his beliefs. He has learned that so many accidents in life happen when people are in a hurry. This is true in competitive intelligence research as well as most business functions. We are in too much of a hurry to produce our work, and the quality suffers. We don’t learn from our mistakes since we’re too busy and onto the next project.
In “One Upping the Competition,” Ken Sawka suggests that companies also focus on post-strategy early warning. In simple terms, it’s recognizing the patterns of what a competitor might be planning based on their actions in real-time, and changing your strategy and tactics based on these observations. Does your company recognize the pattern changes of your competitors and your marketplace? Or are you too impatient and insular to do this? Once you recognize pattern changes, is your leadership nimble enough to change your behavior in time?
If you want to stay in business for the long haul, you need to be observant about your marketplace, question your assumptions, and be willing to make changes based on what you learn in time!