Competitive Intelligence Elicitation

Competitive intelligence is the art of getting information out of competitors, from the extraction and sharing of information between commercial competitors (competing companies), to acquisition of national secrets between the competing spy agencies of different countries (sometimes even allied countries).

Elicitation techniques are a set of methods that are used in a human communicational environment where one person attempts to extract information from another. These techniques might make some feel a little uncomfortable as it might be seen as being manipulative by some, in that one might be acquiring details out people’s lives and their work by means that one would not normally use in one’s social life. However, the fact that practitioners who excel at gathering information might take it personally when one questions their prized skill set on moral grounds. When it comes down to it – these elicitation techniques require simple EQ and people skills, and in some cases, might be akin to some of the techniques that young men use with young women, and nobody really complains too much about that.

Elicitation Techniques

Techniques to encourage a target (yes it’s called a target – a person), to divulge more information than they normally would or even should, including provocation, quid pro quo, flattery, urge to complain, repetition, quoting facts, naivete, criticism, bracketing, disbelief,¬† deliberate error.

  • Provocation – non offensive statement such as stating that a specific situation is bad and then a target will respond with some affirmation that would make you feel better, giving away some factually useful information in the process.
  • Quid Pro Quo – you show me yours an I’ll show you mine so you tell something about yourself to get information about the person you are telling something to.
  • Flattery – flatter someone about something they are proud of and they might elaborate.
  • Urge to Complain – when people lose control of their environment, they are vulnerable so one can give them a reason to complain.
  • Repetition – sometimes known as reframing in a similar way that naval commands are repeated for verification. This is an active listening skill where one repeats what people are saying as they say it, encouraging the target to talk more and elaborate voluntarily.
  • Quoting Reported Facts – if information is already available in the public domain then it can be used as conversational material, right or wrong, it might encourage a target to correct and expand.
  • Naivete – suspend your ego and pretend to be naive about a topic, allowing a target to correct you or show you the error of your ways.
  • Criticism – indirect criticism of a person or organization can make a target become defensive and divulge details to justify what they believe are the more appropriate facts.
  • Bracketing – make a guess is way over the limit and then followed by one under the limit, and then the target might guide you towards the next fact that is closer to the truth.
  • Disbelief (Feigned or Real) – pretend to not believe something or really believe it, and a target may feel compelled to correct you.
  • Deliberately Erroneous – make a statement that is wrong and a target may attempt to correct and enlighten you.

In my opinion, some of these techniques are manipulative and I would not feel 100% comfortable with all of them under all circumstances.