Many people, we have found at Tyson Heinz, make the mistake of providing too much intelligence information when they prepare a competitive research report, making the results less impactful.
Perhaps they want to demonstrate how much effort went into their research, or they think that more information is helpful (and, if necessary, you can always include a source list in an appendix). But the reality is that one of the crucial steps in the intelligence research process is synthesis and analysis of information.
Synthesis mostly takes the form of removing redundancies. Quality research incorporates information drawn from multiple sources. When those sources agree on a particular point, it is uselessly repetitive to include all of them when reporting. What was learned from those sources is important, but, unless it bears on the veracity of the information, where it all came from is not.
Include only what is truly relevant
Further, part of the process of analysis is looking at which pieces of information are truly relevant to the decision being made. Does the manager need to know every price point for a competitor’s service offering, when, in comparison, they are all lower than one’s own company?
No. The relevant information in that case is that the company is being beaten on price. A better way to look at representing this might be a graphic showing the price points across the competitive set. This provides the relevant perspective without the unnecessary details.
Being thoughtful about what information is included in an intelligence research report leads to clearer and better understood reports. Executives, especially, but audiences generally, appreciate reporting that does not waste their time or attention on extraneous information. And attention is the point. If you flood your audience with data they don’t need to know, it is very easy for them to be led astray from the points your report is attempting to make. They can’t see the proverbial forest for the trees. And, there is an additional danger for the research: Often the audience becomes fixed on the data, rather than the message. The less unnecessary data, the easier it is to keep your audience focused on what you want them to learn from the research.
Limit Choices for Easier Decision Making
And there’s more: The more information our minds must contend with when trying to make a decision, the harder it is for us to choose. Think of walking into an ice cream shop. Unless you have a favorite flavor already picked out, it can be quite difficult to choose from among 25 flavors. But if asked if you prefer chocolate or strawberry, it is much easier to come to a decision. This applies in all our decision making.
To sum up, only provide information in a final report or deliverable that is relevant to the question at hand. That way your audience is more likely to remain focused on your message, will not get confused by the details, and will be more decisive.