Stay Ahead Of The Competition – Here is How I Do It.

Back in 1980, Michael Porter (most famous of creating Porter’s Five Forces) published the study Competitive-Strategy: Techniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors. It was more or less the beginning of what you today would call Competitive Intelligence – the action of defining, gathering, analyzing, and distributing intelligence about products, customers, competitors and any aspect of the environment needed to support executives and managers in making strategic decisions for an organization.

Be Curious. Wonderfully photographed by Patricia Glogowski.
Personally I think that time has come for change. Organisation and brands today tend to believe managers are supposed to create business development departments that make sure the company stays ahead of competition. I don’t agree. In the complex world we live in it’s time to make each and every employee a part of that competitive intelligence process. In other words it’s up to you. You are the ones that can make it happen.
A constant flow of information.
The world is becoming smaller and smaller. The Internet has erased borders and will sooner or later erase even language barriers. As a result your company isn’t fighting the local competitor around the corner any more. Your brand and even you are going global. When you apply for your next job you’ll find yourself beat by someone who doesn’t even speak your language. On top of this the things you know might  not even be worth knowing tomorrow. In fact, the half-life of your knowledge has gone from a lifetimes worth to three years according to research Fredrik Svensson referred to (YouTube in Swedish) as we (and my speech in Swedish) both spoke at Digdel some time ago.
As a result of all this we all have to listen, read and learn more about everything, every day, and every hour. It’ll be what your success depends on in the future.

Here’s Johan Ronnestam’s formula for keeping track of the world.

Back in 1996 I started to gather information online with different tools. It’s funny cause I’ve never enjoyed reading books on trends but online reading never seems to kill my curiosity. I guess it’s the fact that online information often is as fresh as it can come. It’s real time. So, here we go:

Netvibes – My hub of inspiration

My first and foremost tool is my Netvibes reader account that I’ve written about before. It’s filled with all kinds of things and to make sure I read the feeds I’ve entered the Netvibes site as my home page which means that every time I open my browser I’m being fed good things from all around the world – every day, every hour and every minute.

Netvibes – The source of my inspiration
Netvibes is simply an RSS reader that I’ve filled with about 350 blogs and websites that I think is necessary to keep track of. The content is a mix of both things I do have to read and other stuff that surprises me every day. When you’re looking to keep track of the outside world – make sure you’re constantly surprised by things you didn’t know you wanted to know about.
On top of that I’ve also filled it with filtered feeds. As an example I’ve gathered about 70 design blogs that are being pulled into one feed with the help of Yahoo Pipes. Another example is reading the top most saved bookmarks on Delicious. This way you’ll make sure that you read stuff you never dreamed of reading.
Netvibes is also the ultimate tool when it comes to creating dashboards in order to keep track of both your own brand and potentially your competitors. Head over to my other post on that subject.

Sharing is caring
Since I believe in sharing I also decided to post my Netvibes file here (right click to download) so that you can get going faster than you ever thought was possible. Then head over to my guide on how to install it here.

Twitter – Real time social P2P information distribution

Writing about things like this and not mentioning Twitter (here’s my Twitter account by the way) would be a crime. For many people Twitter seems like that stupid 140 character social network where people tell the world (that doesn’t listen) that they just brewed a cup of coffee. Nothing could be more wrong. Twitter, to me, is the ultimate combination of knowing what’s up in the world, keeping in touch with friends and other people who you don’t really know but might be interested what you’re up to.
Once you’ve registered an account you should of course start to follow a bunch of people. On Twitter there’s this thing called ‘follow friday’ where you more or less recommend your followers who to follow. Other people on Twitter tend to follow everyone back that follows them. In my case I actually try to read most tweets through out the day and given the fact that I’ve got more than 4000 followers it would be impossible to do just that. So in my case I’d say that my #FF are the 429 people I follow today.
In Twitter you can create your own lists (here are some I’m listed in) or follow other peoples lists. This is also unmatched. If you quickly wanna get updated (in real time) on a specific subject. Just go ahead and search for some authorities and then have a look at which lists these people are placed in. Follow one of those lists and you’ll be amazed how many great things you’ll learn in no time.

Don’t get stuck with the Twitter site. Use Tweetdeck or something similar.
When you start your Twitter venture. Don’t forget to download some kind of Twitter reader to your desktop. Using Twitter via their webpage just wont work over time. There are tons of different tools you can use. Personally I use Tweetdeck for my computer and an app called Osfoora for the iPad and iPhone. As with everything else – keep experimenting and try different tools as you get more used to this social network.
Finally, using Flipboard as stated below, in combination with Twitter and Twitter lists is the ultimate laid back ‘keeping up to date’ tool.

Flipboard – Social Reading.

This app for my iPad is the most wonderful tool in the world. Not only does it let me read my Facebook accounts and my Twitter feeds as a book. On top of that I can enter other Twitter lists, searches, Flickr accounts and most importantly Google reader accounts.

Flipboard lets you read feeds relaxed and focused
What I’ve done here is analyzed my Netbives reading behavior and then collected the 50 most important ones. I’ve then imported these into my Google reader account that I personally don’t use in my computer since I think the presentation mode stresses the hell out of me and makes it impossible for me to stay on top of my content. But with the help of Flipboard that problems is solved.
By downsizing my Netvibes feeds into the most important feeds and reading these on my iPad I’ve got the perfect tool to keep track of the world when I’m on a plane, a bus, a train or just wanna lay down on the couch and consume inspiration.

Delicious – Social Bookmarking

Another tool of mine is Delicious. It’s more or less a social replacement of your bookmark manager that you’ve got in your browser. The difference is that it’s cloud based and therefor always accessible. Comment your bookmarks and tag them with keywords and slowly but surely you’ll turn your bookmark history into a searchable history. Personally I like to tag things with both keywords, client names that they might be important for and finally cases that I often use when I speak in public.
(Note. Yahoo has signaled that they might shut Delicious down. But it seems it wont happen any time soon)

Instapaper – Turning Internet Pages Into ‘Books’

Then of course there are always resource that might seem to long to read of the screen. The computer screen that is. The Instapaper combined with your iPad or iPhone is the ultimate tool.

Instapaper turns ugly websites into a beautiful read
When you end up finding yourselves short of time, simply save the link to Delicious and then click ‘read later’ that you’ve place on your bookmark bar once you’ve created an account over at Instapaper. Boom – now that site of yours is transformed into book-look-alike that you can open on your mobile device. Once there you can favorite, archive or delete the text.

Ouora – Ask And You’ll Be Answered

Got a question. Quora probably got the answer. Otherwise just go ahead and ask. It’s as simply as that.

LinkedIn groups – Social professionals

LinkedIn hasn’t really turned in to my favorite tool just yet. But I do like the groups in there. The best part of that are usually the summaries that are being sent to me via email. I’m a member of some 40+ groups at the moment and even though lots of them are filled with spam – every now and then a pile of diamonds pour out of that network.

Facebook – Reach more than 600 million people!

Last but not least. Let’s not forget Facebook in this post. Finally, tons of good things come to me via Facebook. Both from the people I’m connected with, but also through the groups and pages I’ve liked. Use the search in Facebook and find the groups and pages that match your interests.
So. That’s how I do it. Of course I could go on about podcasts, Slideshare, YouTube, Flickr tons of other sites. But the stuff mention above is what I constantly come back to every day.
Feel free to leave your own tips in the comment field!