What managers can learn from spies
Techniques from the clandestine world can help you legitimately succeed in the business world. In particular, classic spy methods are valuable for understanding and manipulating your customers, your competition and your suppliers, according to J C Carleson in her book Work Like a Spy: Business Tips from a Former CIA Officer. The book aims to describe the legal use of intelligence techniques, rather than to promote corporate espionage.
So, what sorts of business decisions and activities can benefit from the experience of a former intelligence officer? The author has advice to offer in relation to:
- Targeting: how to find a “hook” which enables you to establish a productive relationship with a client, prospective employee or other person
- Business counterintelligence: how to reduce the flow of confidential information leaking outside your organisation
- Recruitment: determining whether prospective employees are really the most suitable candidates for your position and organisation
- Ethics: the importance of integrity and trustworthy behaviour even when engaged in dirty work
- Crisis management: how to focus attention and action outward instead of inward and create appropriate organisational dynamics to ensure the best response
- Making a sale: various techniques for creating trust and persuading a person to do something that you want
- Supply chain management: how to build a supplier intelligence network; and
- Dealing with the competition: how to improve your chances of securing promotion, relative to those of your colleagues
The book contains some interesting spy stories, although the specific facts have presumably been changed. The book also reveals how much like any other business the CIA really is, although once again the CIA censors may have buffed things up to make the appearance slightly shinier than the reality. It did seem rather odd being lectured on the importance of integrity and trust by someone from an organisation that deals in deception and theft, and I struggled to understand the author’s explanation of what motivates people to become CIA operatives. Nonetheless, it is an interesting book with some sound business advice.