People Upgrades: George Pruitt

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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 3, 2000. All rights reserved.


Intelligence; Not Espionage — Larry Kahaner

Japanese managers, says Larry Kahaner, spend an

enormous amount of time perusing their competitors’ publications,

annual reports — anything and everything that they can get their

hands on to better understand their competition. By contrast, American

CEOs get most of their so-called intelligence by hobnobbing.

Kahaner, a former Business Week reporter and author of the 1996 book

"Competitive Intelligence," says that if companies want to

survive in a global economy, they have to adopt more effective competitive

intelligence practices. "The new model is to run companies very

lean, and this requires you to know what works, and you learn through

competitive activities," says Kahaner, who speaks on Thursday,

May 11, at 8 a.m. at the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals

at the Newark Marriott Hotel. Call 201-998-0173 (

A licensed private investigator who lives in Virginia, Kahaner grew

up in Brooklyn, attended City College for a BS in physics, Class of

1972, and then earned a master’s in science journalism from Boston

University. He wrote for Business Week during the early 1980s, and

has written eight books. His website,, includes valuable

points on competitive intelligence, as well as ancient wisdom on business

in general.

"Competitive intelligence has to be done on a systematic basis

— it can’t be done haphazardly," says Kahaner, who will present

these core concepts on competitive intelligence at the SCIP meeting:

Collection. Gathering the raw data. Contrary to myth,

says Kahaner, competitive intelligence and industrial espionage are

not the same thing; nearly 85 to 90 percent of the information a company

needs can be found ethically, through newspapers, speeches, public

documents, aerial photos, and other means. "I maintain that industrial

espionage is a failure of competitive intelligence, because if you

have to steal something that means you were unskilled or too lazy

to find it out using open sources," he says.

Often times, collecting information on a company is as simple going

to their headquarters or outpost. "I had one client who wanted

to learn why his competitor was doing so well at loading and unloading

trucks," says Kahaner, "and I said why don’t you go there

with a sandwich and sit outside and watch him. That’s perfectly legal

and you wonder why people don’t do it more often."

Analysis. Taking raw information or data and turning it

into intelligence or knowledge. This is where most managers trip themselves

up, says Kahaner, who makes a point of distinguishing between information

and knowledge with the following parable:

Two stockbrokers each receive a stockquote on their pager at the same

time. They both buy and sell accordingly. One guy makes a million,

the other loses millions. The difference lies in analysis, says Kahaner:

"Two different interpretations," he says. "People don’t

like to think. You can take three or four disparate pieces of information

and see a pattern."

Dissemination. Unless the information is in the right

hands, it doesn’t mean anything, says Kahaner.

Discovering. Explore the questions that intelligence brings

up. Here, too, a company’s system tends to break down — they may

put one employee on a CI job part-time and there’s no follow-up or


One of the excuses American managers love to use for not implementing

a competitive intelligence program is that CI is not taught in business

schools, says Kahaner. To that, Kahaner says: unfortunately true,

but it is taught almost everywhere else in the world, including Japan.

"How many years did it take for American carmakers to believe

that the Japanese were making betters cars than Detroit?"

— Melinda Sherwood

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People Upgrades: George Pruitt

More important than upgrading your software is upgrading

your employee’s knowledge and skills, says George Pruitt, president

of Thomas Edison State College, which specializes in educational opportunities

for adult students and programs that work in conjunction with corporate

needs ( "Knowledge is doubling every seven years," says Pruitt.

"That means that the challenge for businesses and employees is

to update constantly. There used to be a notion that higher education

was something that you did after high school. Now we know it takes

place all throughout your life and it never stops."

Pruitt will speak on "The Chamber, Education, and Your Business"

on Tuesday, May 9, at 11:45 a.m. at the Mercer Chamber’s Hamilton

division meeting, held at Giovi’s restaurant. Call 609-393-4143. Cost:


"There are several avenues in which business and education intersect,

and the obvious one is workforce development," says Pruitt, who

is also chair of the Mercer Chamber. "Companies have to compete

with more than just product services and prices — they have to

compete with their workforce. We were one of the first colleges in

the country that offered high-quality degree programs exclusively

over the Internet, and we were the first to allow adults to gain credit

for some of the corporate training in the workplace."

Founded in 1972, Thomas Edison provides 14 degree programs at the

associate, baccalaureate and master degree level to approximately

9,000 students, and has pioneered the use of telecourses, Internet-based

courses, and independent study methods. Students can also earn college

credit by demonstrating that they have attained college level learning

through tests or performance evaluations.

The college doesn’t just serve students — it serves businesses,

too. In partnership with AT&T, Thomas Edison offers a masters in science

and development, and will unveil a masters of arts and professional

studies, a liberal arts program, this fall. A masters program for

Human Resources professionals, at the request of HR professionals

in the area, is also in the works.

Prior to joining Thomas Edison, Pruitt was executive vice president

for the Council of Adult and Experiential Learning, an association

of 500 colleges and universities interested in particular learning

styles and needs of mature adult. He grew up in Chicago, and has a

BS in biology from Illinois State, as well as a masters in counseling

and PhD in higher education.

How adults and young students view education first became apparent

to Pruitt when he was teaching adult students at Towson State University

in Baltimore. One day, he recalls, a snow storm forced classes to

be canceled. Most of the day students celebrated, but to his dismay

all of his adult students showed up at class anyway. "An adult

is not just an 18 year old who’s been around longer," he says.

"An adult learns differently than an 18 year old, they bring more

experience, they’re self-motivated, and they tend to be more demanding

because they know why they are there."

There’s another good reason why businesses and universities should

partner in the venture to enhance adult education: simple economics.

"More dollars are being spent on education and training in corporate

America," says Pruitt, "than in all the colleges in the U.S."

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