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Pt. 16 of 18. Spying, leadership lessons from organised crime

For the good of society – 18 leadership lessons from organised crime


In Part 1, “Ambition” we set the scene.

According to Interpol, the UN and WTO the organised crime industry is one of the worlds largest with quantifiable revenues of at least $3 Trillion per year and despite trillions of dollars worth of investment to counter act their growth the industry is growing faster than ever leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.

In a world first we reveal how Syndicates, some of whose annual revenues top $200 Billion use influence, resources, technology and vision to build global empires and translate it into a business language that philanthropists can use to build prosperous companies that can help repair some of the societal damage by creating new jobs, simplifying international expansion, building engaged workforces and creating new, selfless collaborative cultures.

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During our investigation we uncovered 18 categories, to read them just click on the link below:

  1. Ambition
  2. Customer Service
  3. Bribery and Corruption
  4. Devolved decision making
  5. External Problem Resolution
  6. Internal Problem Resolution
  7. Local Touch
  8. The Lean Team
  9. Consistency
  10. Loyalty
  11. Perks
  12. Disruptive Innovation
  13. The Flight to Favourable Jurisdictions
  14. React to Real Time Events
  15. Process as the Enemy
  16. Spying on the Competition
  17. Emigres Clusters
  18. Trust, Faith and Openness


(16) Spying on the Competition

What this means to the Shadow Industry

There is no better way to beat your competition that knowing exactly what they’re developing, how they’re going to distribute it and who their customers are going to be so it’s no surprise that inside men have formed an integral part of helping criminal organisations stay steps ahead of their competition but over time the shadow industry’s reliance on inside men has waned and been replaced by a new weapon – Cyber Espionage.

This paradigm shift in behaviour, which first emerged in the 1990’s, long before the dot com boom, has proved to be an incredibly lucrative strategy – not only has it allowed them to reduce expenses by half and consolidate employees and resources it’s also given them a much larger net and increased their market opportunities by a multiple.

Since the early 2000’s it is calculated that this change of tactic has netted the Shadow Industry over $12 Trillion dollars and that’s a conservative estimate. In 2013 the FBI estimated that Cyber Espionage and Intellectual Property theft is costing US businesses alone over $250 Billion per annum and every year we’re seeing Cyber Crime and Cyber Espionage numbers increase by at least 9% CAGR and last year Symantec estimated that 14 people per second were victims of it. Bringing all of this into perspective that means that over 431 million people and almost every large organisations on Earth lost money, time and IP so bearing in mind that only one third of the planets population have a reliable internet connection there is staggering room for growth and opportunity.

What this means to legitimate industries

How useful would it be to know exactly what you’re competition is developing, how they’re going to sell it and into which markets?

Industrial Espionage and Cyber Crime are rightly illegal but while they’re now one of the shadow industries favorite, and arguably most profitable tools there are still a myriad of ways for your organisation to gather useful insights and intelligence on your competitors without having to resort to hiring the Black Hat hackers but to get accurate and useful intelligence you need to be prepared to cast your net far and wide.

In today’s hyper connected world finding people who know a lot more about your competition than you do is far easier than you might think and the fact that all these methods are legal, and more importantly, ethical just makes it sweeter. Your ecosystem of partners, consultants, analysts, press contacts, customers, marketers, bloggers, employees, new hires and even friends and relatives come into contact with your competition on a daily basis and engaged with wisely they can give up a goldmine of valuable information that you can use to help you build a comprehensive picture of your competition – past, present and future.

Far too few organisations realise the volume of quality insights they can mine from their ecosystem but with the right focus, sensible management and with the right systems in place it’s possible to quickly and easily build a comprehensive database of information that can help you gain a valuable competitive advantage.

It’s more than likely that the most valuable insights into your competition will come from the experiences that cross vendor, cross industry consultants and new hires have gathered during their tenures at different organisations and while confidentiality agreements will prevent some of them sharing warts and all the vast majority of them are open access, consequently their insights into the political, commercial and technical areas of your competition can be unparalleled.

The next most valuable sources of information then include feedback and insights from your competitions customers and partner community and often the experiences and opinions they share help paint a more intimate portrait of your competitor based on their own specific inter personal relationships with the organisation. Meanwhile while analysts, press contacts and bloggers are useful a lot of the information they have access to, and can share, is already publically available and any interesting titbits are often beyond your reach, bound by strict confidentiality contracts.

In the future though you’ll have access to even greater insights courtesy of the internet and we aren’t talking about the era of the online review, we’re talking about the advent of Big Data analytics and the arrival of the Semantic Web – software driven capabilities that are so powerful they can trawl all of the web looking for clues about your competitions weaknesses and next moves by examining hiring practices, spotting investment patterns and  extracting meaning and insights from back and forth communications across social media. Think about it – your competitions Head of Research makes a number of new connections with a few Material Sciences professors on LinkedIn who specialize in cutting edge chip fabrication and then he starts using a number of public forums to start reading and asking questions about the latest fabrication methodologies… if his employer is a server hardware manufacturer then he could be trying to develop a faster CPU to knock your high performance servers off their perch but now you know his intent you can proactively react, up your game and try to beat them to the punch.


Being able to predict your competitions next moves gives your organisation a critical business advantage and there are many partnerships and tools at your disposal that can help you gain sound, accurate insights to create business advantage.

The key takeaways are:

  • Deploy enterprise wide Big Data and Analytics solutions to spot patterns and trends
  • Check the accuracy of your information and use it to create business advantage
  • Use your ecosystem of contacts and partners to build a comprehensive picture
  • Collate information in a single silo and get one team to advise strategy
  • Create a standardised process for gathering and ingesting information
  • Always act with morals and integrity

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