Friday, November 4

Searching for Competitive Information

How many organizations about which you know do competitive analysis in the area of formal learning programs? "Competitor X is killing us in the marketplace, and they do program Y?" My gut feel is not that many, but I would love to hear about examples where they do.


Donald Clark said...

I don't believe most organizations directly target their competitor's learning programs. An organization normally does a competitive analysis because it sees or is looking for an opportunity to insert a disruptive innovation. Thus, they look at a competitor's resources, processes, and values in order to discover their strengths and weaknesses.

When looking at resources, you normally look at such things as people, technology, brands, cash, equipment, etc. If you discovered something such as professors, well-known training figures, or training consultants then that should cause deeper investigations.

When looking at processes, you normally look at hiring, training, product development, manufacturing, etc. Thus you do look at training, however, most firms under-value the importance of it. Laurie Bassi, one-time professor of economics at Georgetown University and former vice president of ASTD says that organizations that make large investments in people do much better than others. She further says that the education and training variable is the most significant predictor of an organization's success as compared to price-to-earning ratios, price-to-book statistics, and measures of risk and volatility. Yet most organizations view outputs as being more important than inputs. And training is seen as a costly input. Thus they tend to value resources and outputs more strongly than processes or values.

When looking at values you normally look at such things as customer demands, financial considerations, and ethics.

Three exceptions that I know of are schools of higher education, learning providers, and the military. For example, a school opening today or expanding would have an extremely difficult time going directly after schools such as Harvard, Yale, or Duke. The University of Phoenix and Concord Law School went after nonconsuming adult learners by offering degrees that could be completed in the learner's spare time. Thus, you have to do something slightly different.

And since armies are not always in battle, the military has to look at their potential enemies' learning programs in order to analyze their strengths and weaknesses.

Now there are right ways and wrong ways to go about it. For example Columbia University offered non-degree elearning program in such topics as Shakespeare and African-American studies. Yet their target audience were already getting what they needed via books, television, and books. Hence they failed when other distance-learning programs were growing at 33 percent annually. Why? Because they offered a worse way to learn rather than seeking a way to disrupt their competitors.

The overall corporate learning program is estimated at somewhere around $30 billion today (it is extremely difficult to pinpoint). For example, General Electric recently spent more than $1 billion alone on its management training program offered through its corporate university. These "Corporate Universities" are today's disruptive innovations. In the early 1990s there were about 400 of them compared to over 2,000 of them today. Employees in the past had to go to an expensive M.B.A. program the was general in nature, where as today they can go to a corporate university program that is specifically designed and customized to fit the organization; in addition to being modular so they can then be tailored to fit each employee's need (a formal learning characteristic being customized to fit an informal characteristic).

Thus, if you are GM's competitor, you would have to take their corporate university into consideration when doing a competitive analysis simply becase of the size of it. And if you are a learning provider, then you would have to consider not only the M.B.A. providers, but also the target corporate university if you are offering management training programs.

Unknown said...

Hi there !
please visit
raghib means of Competitor.