When I wrote here about AttaainCI’s competitive intelligence reports–AttaainCI is Attaain, Inc.’s competitive intelligence software-as-a-service from which President and CEO Daryl Scott generated the reports–I didn’t share this Website Links report of inbound links to Inside VT KnowledgeWorks. I had to give myself time to gain insights from it.
I typed in one troubling URL on the Website Links report, went to the site, and felt horror become nausea and shock become grief. I have no idea which page on that site links to which page on this site, because I couldn’t bear to look any more.
I felt afraid, embarrassed, ashamed. Why was that dark site linking to mine? What had I done to draw its creators’ attention?
One of the hardest life lessons to learn offline must be learned online as well: I cannot control the thoughts, feelings, beliefs, actions–or image creations or words–of others.
As painful as the experience was, I am grateful that it happened.
I gotta know.
To maintain a competitive advantage for my company, I need competitive intelligence to learn how what I am doing is being perceived and who’s doing the perceiving.
I want to attend to my customers. I want to know what they want, what they wish they had, and provide it.
Within six hours of posting this blog entry on AttaainCI, "AttaainCI" as a search term showed the blog post on the second page of Google search results. As I mentioned in this post, my company’s product is words, and words online have power.
My comments were positive. What if they had been negative? One assumes those negative comments would also have appeared on page two.
What’s a company to do about Web 2.0 where anyone can write anything, create any image, and link to your Web site or blog or wiki or database or whatever you have online in whatever way they want?
Here are my insights:
One: Summon the courage to learn and face the truth. I gotta have AttaainCI.
Two: Attempt not what is impossible–control–but what might be termed "invitational influence." In public forums like blogs, I can write comments that acknowledge the writer’s concerns, then address them one by one. The best example I’ve seen of this is the online dialog between water expert Dr. John Cairns and VT KnowledgeWorks company Portaqua’s CEO Rafael Gonzalez. According to this Wall Street Journal article, Dell does it, too.
Three: Thicken my skin. Creepy things are online. Tough critics are online. Touch competitors are online. I must think in terms of when I will get trashed, not if, and use competitive intelligence to develop strategies to handle inevitable "trashation."
Four: My principles were tested but I’m still with this belief, wording attributed to Voltaire: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
Five: I have to remember Gandhi’s words: "When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall–think of it, always."
Again, ultimately, I have no control over others. The best I can do is seek in myself, in others, and in the products and services of my company, the way of truth and love.
May most of my connections–and links–with others, online and off, be that way.