Intelligence briefs

An eclectic collection of discoveries & developments:

A new biosensor developed at the Georgia Tech Research Institute can detect avian influenza in just minutes. In addition to being a rapid test, the biosensor is economical, field-deployable and sensitive to different viral strains. — Georgia Institute of Technology

Brazilian food companies recently made two cross-border acquisitions: JBS (Latin America’s largest beef processor) bought Swift & Co.; and Perdigão (a leading Brazilian food company) bought Plusfood Groep BV in Europe. “While only two data points, we wonder if this foreshadows additional cross-border acquisitions by Brazilian companies in the increasingly global food industry.” — GE Commercial Finance industry newsletter

Sixty percent of Americans are pessimistic about the state of the environment and want prompt action taken to improve its health, according to a national opinion poll. The survey found that 52% of Americans expect the world’s natural environment to be in worse shape in 10 years than it is now. An additional 8% said the environment is in poor or very poor shape and won’t improve. — Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University / Associated Press

India could challenge the position of China as the manufacturing center of the world in the next three to five years because China is becoming too expensive. Labor costs are surging on China’s eastern coast. — Capgemini / ProLogis

Starbucks has always insisted that the company doesn’t market its caffeinated beverages to children and teenagers. But company officials acknowledge that they’re considering introducing drinks and drink sizes suitable for the under-18 set. — MSNBC (10 September 2007)

Intelligence Briefs

An eclectic collection of discoveries:

China’s smoggy capital city of Beijing adds 1,000 vehicles to its roads each dayThe Wall Street Journal (5 July 2007)

A competitive intelligence professional says he loves PowerPoint — “mainly due to the misuse of it.” He continues: “When presentations are made available on competitors’ Web sites after a financial call or large event, you can always find plenty of gems within the dense slides.” Dan McHugh

Office rents are skyrocketing across the U.S. and driving up business costs, because of a dearth of space in some major markets and deep-pocketed landlords who can afford to hold out for premium tenants. The Wall Street Journal (5 July 2007)

Here’s a collection of 250-plus online resources for competitive intelligence about the pharmaceutical and health care industries. Fuld & Co. (registration required)

Bain: Unlocking ‘hidden assets’ is key to avoiding business extinction

A 10-year study by Bain & Co. finds that 75% of Fortune 500 companies “face the threat of extinction within a decade” unless they tap their “hidden assets … to redefine themselves.” What sort of hidden assets? Bain’s “Unstoppable Growth Study” study says:

  • hidden customer assets: customer segments and data that can prompt new products and businesses
  • hidden growth platforms: platforms that can be expanded or created for new product lines and business units
  • hidden capabilities: technologies, processes and expertise that can lead to a breakthrough product or service

“These hidden assets were central to 90% of the cases where companies successfully redefined their core businesses and their growth formulas. The assets were not themselves hidden, but their full potential had not been recognized by management,” Bain says.

Typical strategies that usually don’t work:

  • leaping to new hot markets
  • pursuing “big bang” transforming mergers
  • launching broad-based innovation programs

So where does the dreaded threat of “extinction” come from? The following megatrends:

  • Faster movement of information
  • Speed of capital formation
  • Emergence of China and India, and their disruptive impact
  • Reduced capital intensity among the most profitable new industries
  • Increasingly rapid movement of executives among companies
  • The rise and impact of private equity firms
  • Speed of overall technology cycles

Success stories — companies that stepped back from the brink by unlocking their hidden assets — include Apple (think: iPod) and Marvel Entertainment (think: “Spiderman” blockbuster movies). “Companies that seek growth solutions based on hidden assets are four to six times more likely to survive,” the study says.

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About the study:
Tracked the 500 largest U.S. public companies from 1995 through 2004 and assessed their financial performance and rate of change. More extensive 10-year before-and-after profiles were then developed for 50% of the remaining companies that didn’t go bankrupt or get acquired during that period. Also surveyed 240 global executives and developed case studies on 25 successful business redefinitions.

Related:
The book: Unstoppable: Finding Hidden Assets to Renew the Core and Fuel Profitable Growth, by Chris Zook (Harvard Business School Press, 2007).

Barriers to China’s growth

China’s economy seems to be going gangbusters. “Forecasts suggest it could overtake the USA, Japan and Germany to become the world’s largest economy as early as 2035,” according to Global Futures & Forecast (GFF) and Fast Future. But GFF’s survey of international business leaders and futurists finds that there nevertheless are some short-term barriers to the China juggernaut:

Barriers to China’s growth
Bureaucracy (cited by 41% of respondents)
Corruption (32%)
Energy shortages (22%)
Lack of experienced managers (18%)
Protectionist behavior in export markets (18%)
Slow market reforms (18%)
Social unrest (18%)
———————
Base: 700 respondents from 60 countries
Source: “The Future of China’s Economy: The Path to 2020,” by Rohit Talwar, Global Futures & Foresight (GFF) and Fast Future; cited in The Futurist magazine (July-August 2007, World Future Society)