Strategic Intelligence
14 min read

Strategic Intelligence 101: A-Z Glossary of Must-Know Terms

Strategic Intelligence—a term you may, or may not, have heard discussed by your competitors. Or perhaps you've encountered it more frequently in business circles. Let's dive in.

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May 21, 2024
Strategic Intelligence
14 min read

Strategic intelligence is a critical component of modern company strategy. Businesses that invest in it make better decisions, driving growth and success by understanding emerging trends and leveraging strategic insights.

However, as this term has gained popularity, its meaning has often become muddled, leading to confusion. To help you clear up any ambiguities, we give the Strategic Intelligence Glossary from A to Z.

It aims to demystify essential terms and concepts, providing you with the knowledge necessary to navigate this field confidently.

Within this glossary, you'll find valuable resources to deepen your understanding of specific terms, empowering you to become an expert in the matter and bring your company to great success. 

1. Adaptive Foresight

Adaptive foresight is a strategic planning method that prioritises adaptability, continuous learning, and responsiveness to new changes and uncertainties. It involves assessing future possibilities and the ability to alter plans in real time depending on changing facts and trends.

2. Ansoff Model

The Ansoff Model, commonly known as the Ansoff Matrix, is another strategic planning tool that helps businesses identify growth prospects by examining their present market and product offerings.

The model gives a framework for examining four growth strategies based on combinations of new and existing markets and products: Market Penetration, Market Development, Product Development, and Diversification.

3. Backcasting

With Backcasting, you anticipate a desirable future state or goal and then work backwards to determine the steps required to achieve it.

Unlike forecasting, which predicts future outcomes based on current trends and historical data, backcasting begins with a vision of the desired future and focuses on building strategies and activities to achieve that goal.

4. BCG Matrix

The BCG Matrix is a strategic management tool that analyses and categorises a business's product portfolio or business units based on market share and growth rate. It helps businesses make strategic decisions regarding resource allocation, investment objectives, and portfolio management.

5. Black Swans

Black Swans are unpredictable events that have a major impact on markets and businesses. They are rare and difficult to foresee but can cause significant disruptions.

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Read more on Black Swans in Navigating Uncertainty: What Businesses Need to Know

6. Blue Ocean Strategy

The Blue Ocean Strategy is a strategic planning framework that focuses on creating uncontested market space or "blue oceans” in which competition is irrelevant or minimised. This encourages businesses to shift from competing within existing markets to creating new market spaces.

7. Causal Layered Analysis (CLA)

Causal Layered Analysis (CLA) is a future research method that explores multiple layers of an issue to understand its deeper causes.

It looks beyond the surface level to examine underlying worldviews, narratives, and metaphors that shape perceptions and actions.

CLA helps to identify fundamental changes needed for transformative solutions. This approach is particularly useful in addressing complex social, cultural, and organisational issues.

8. Collaborative Intelligence

Collaborative intelligence refers to the collective intelligence that emerges from a group working together. It involves sharing knowledge, ideas, and resources to solve problems and innovate.

This concept leverages the diverse skills and perspectives within a team or organisation, leading to more effective decision-making and creative solutions.

Collaborative intelligence is crucial in today’s interconnected world where teamwork and cooperation drive success.

Download Whitepaper: How Collaborative Intelligence Elevates Strategic Decisions

9. Competitive Intelligence

Competitive intelligence involves gathering and analysing information about your competitors. This can include their strategies, strengths, weaknesses, and market position. The goal is to use this information to reduce uncertainty and make more informed decisions, leading to a competitive edge and sustainable growth.

10. Consumer Insights

Consumer insights are deep understandings of your customers' behaviours, preferences, and needs. These insights are derived from data analysis, market research, and direct feedback. They help businesses tailor their products, services, and marketing strategies to better meet customer expectations.

By tapping into consumer insights, companies can enhance customer satisfaction, and loyalty, and ultimately, drive sales growth.

11. Cross Impact Analysis

Cross impact analysis is a method used to understand how different events or factors influence each other. It involves mapping out potential interactions and assessing the likelihood and impact of these interactions.

This technique is often used in strategic planning to explore various scenarios and identify potential risks and opportunities. Cross impact analysis helps organisations prepare for complex, interconnected challenges systematically.

12. Data Collection

Data Collection is about gathering relevant information from a wide range of sources, such as market reports, competitor analysis, customer feedback, and social media. This helps businesses build a comprehensive database of knowledge.

13. Delphi Method

The Delphi Method is a structured communication strategy that uses recurrent questionnaires to gather and improve a panel of experts' opinions and forecasts with the goal of establishing a consensus on a given topic or issue.

This strategy makes use of experts' collective expertise and insights while minimising the effect of dominant individuals and lowering the risk of bias.

14. Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is the process of integrating digital technologies into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how it operates and delivers value to customers.

This transformation involves adopting technologies like cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and data analytics to enhance efficiency, innovate products and services, and improve customer experiences.

For example, a retailer might undergo digital transformation by implementing e-commerce platforms and personalised marketing strategies.

15. Emerging Patterns

Emerging patterns refer to recurring themes or behaviours that start to become noticeable over time. Unlike trends, which are more broadly visible, patterns might be subtler and require careful observation to detect.

Recognising these patterns can help businesses predict future developments and make strategic decisions. For instance, an increase in remote working arrangements might indicate a broader shift towards flexible work environments.

16. Emerging Trends

Emerging trends are new developments or shifts in behaviour, technology, or markets that are gaining traction. These trends often signal future changes and opportunities.

Identifying emerging trends early can give businesses a competitive edge by allowing them to adapt strategies and innovate ahead of the curve. Examples include the rise of electric vehicles or the increasing focus on sustainability in consumer products.

💡TIP: With Trendtracker you can explore more than 3,000 trends covering social, economic, political, scientific, technological, legal, environmental and ethical subjects.

17. Environmental Scanning

Environmental scanning, also known as Horizon Scanning, involves systematically examining external factors that could impact an organisation. This process includes monitoring social, economic, technological, and political trends to identify potential threats and opportunities.

For example, a company might scan for new regulations that could affect their industry or technological advancements that could disrupt their market. By staying aware of these factors, businesses can proactively adapt their strategies and remain competitive.

18. Ethnographic Research

Ethnographic research is a qualitative method that studies people in their natural environments. Researchers observe and interact with participants to understand their behaviours, cultures, and experiences.

This approach provides deep insights into how customers use products or services in real life, helping businesses create more user-friendly and relevant offerings.

19. Extrapolation

Extrapolation is a forecasting method that involves extending current trends or data into the future to predict outcomes. By assuming that existing patterns will continue, businesses can make informed guesses about future conditions.

For example, if a company’s sales have been growing steadily by 5% each year, extrapolation would suggest that this growth rate will continue into the near future.

20. Foresight / Strategic Foresight

Foresight, or strategic foresight, is the practice of looking ahead to anticipate and prepare for future challenges and opportunities. It involves identifying and analysing trends, drivers of change, and potential disruptions. Strategic foresight helps organisations develop long-term plans that are resilient and adaptable.

Read: How to Develop Strategic Foresight Through Environmental Scanning

21. Foresighter / Foresight Professional

A foresighter, or foresight professional, is an expert in studying and predicting future trends and scenarios. These professionals use various methods and tools to analyse data and provide insights into potential futures. They help organisations understand and prepare for what lies ahead, ensuring they remain competitive and resilient.

22. Future Studies / Futures Intelligence

Future studies, also known as futures intelligence, is the systematic exploration of potential futures to inform present-day decision-making. It involves analysing trends, uncertainties, and emerging issues to anticipate how they might unfold.

The goal is to prepare for a range of possible scenarios, helping organisations navigate change and seize opportunities.

23. Game Theory

Game theory is a mathematical framework used to analyse strategic interactions between different players or decision-makers. It examines how individuals or organisations make decisions when their outcomes depend on the actions of others.

Game theory helps in understanding competitive and cooperative behaviours, predicting potential outcomes, and formulating strategies.

24. GE-McKinsey Nine-Box Matrix

The GE-McKinsey Nine-Box Matrix is a strategic tool used for portfolio analysis and management. It helps organisations evaluate their business units or product lines based on industry attractiveness and competitive strength.

The matrix is divided into nine boxes, each representing different strategic options such as invest, hold, or divest. Use this matrix to decide which product lines to focus on for growth and which to phase out.

25. Geopolitical Intelligence

Geopolitical intelligence involves gathering and analysing information about political, economic, and social events globally to understand their potential impact on a business or organisation.

This type of intelligence helps companies anticipate risks and opportunities arising from international developments such as elections, trade policies, or conflicts. For example, a company might use geopolitical intelligence to navigate the effects of Brexit on its supply chain and market access.

26. Global Drivers

Global drivers are major forces or trends that shape the world and influence the future of businesses and societies. These can include technological advancements, demographic shifts, economic changes, environmental factors, and political developments.

Understanding global drivers helps organisations anticipate changes and adapt their strategies accordingly.

27. Grey Rhino

A grey rhino is a highly probable, high-impact threat that is often ignored or underestimated. Unlike black swans, which are unpredictable, grey rhinos are foreseeable events that can cause significant damage if not addressed.

The term encourages proactive risk management and preparedness. An example of a grey rhino might be climate change, which poses a clear and present danger but is often not sufficiently addressed by organisations and governments.

28. Hard Trends

Hard trends are future events or developments that are based on measurable, predictable facts and are highly likely to occur. These trends provide a reliable foundation for strategic planning because they are driven by established data or principles.

For instance, the ageing population is a hard trend that will impact healthcare and retirement planning due to well-documented demographic shifts.

29. Longitudinal Study

A longitudinal study is a research method that involves repeated observations of the same variables over a long period.

This type of study is used to track changes and developments over time, providing insights into trends and long-term effects. For instance, a longitudinal study might follow a group of people over several decades to understand the impact of lifestyle choices on health outcomes.

30. Macrotrends

Macro trends are significant trends that influence broad areas of society and the economy over an extended period. They are less pervasive than megatrends but still have a substantial impact.

Macro trends can include changes in consumer behaviour, technological advancements, or economic shifts. For instance, the increasing adoption of remote work is a macro trend affecting various industries.

31. Massively Multiplayer Forecasting Games (MMFG)

Massively Multiplayer Forecasting Games (MMFG) are interactive, online platforms where large numbers of participants collaboratively predict future events. These games leverage collective intelligence to generate insights and forecasts on various topics.

The primary value of MMFGs lies in their ability to facilitate strategic planning by engaging diverse participants in scenario building and decision-making exercises. For example, an MMFG might involve forecasting the economic impact of a new technology over the next decade.

32. Megatrends

Megatrends are large, transformative global forces that impact the world over the long term. These trends span decades and affect multiple aspects of society, including technology, economy, environment, and demographics.

Understanding megatrends helps organisations align their strategies with fundamental shifts. Examples of megatrends include urbanisation, climate change, and the ageing population.

33. Microtrends

Micro trends are smaller, more specific trends that typically influence particular segments or niches within a market. These trends often emerge quickly and can be short-lived, but they can provide valuable opportunities for businesses to innovate and differentiate themselves. An example of a micro trend might be a sudden spike in demand for a particular fashion style or tech gadget.

34. Netnography

Netnography is a research method that adapts ethnographic techniques to study online communities and cultures. It involves observing and analysing digital interactions, such as social media posts, forums, and online reviews, to gain insights into consumer behaviours and attitudes.

Netnography helps businesses understand how people engage with their products and brands in online spaces.

35. Porter's Five Forces

Porter's Five Forces is a framework for analysing the competitive forces within an industry. Developed by Michael E. Porter, it identifies five key factors that influence competition: the threat of new entrants, the bargaining power of suppliers, the bargaining power of buyers, the threat of substitute products or services, and the intensity of competitive rivalry.

Understanding these forces helps businesses assess their competitive environment and develop strategies to improve their market position.

For example, a company might analyse the threat of new entrants to determine how to strengthen barriers to entry.

36. Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics involves using statistical algorithms and machine learning techniques to analyse historical data and make forecasts about future events. By identifying patterns and relationships within the data, predictive analytics helps organisations anticipate trends, behaviours, and outcomes.

This approach is widely used in various industries, from finance to healthcare, to improve decision-making and strategic planning.

Learn more about predictive analytics in this whitepaper

37. Probabilistic Foresight

Probabilistic foresight involves using probabilistic methods to predict and plan for multiple future scenarios. Instead of focusing on a single expected outcome, this approach considers a range of possible futures, each with an associated likelihood.

This helps organisations prepare for uncertainty by developing flexible strategies that can adapt to different potential developments.

38. Psychographics

Psychographics is the study of people's attitudes, interests, values, and lifestyles. This approach goes beyond demographic data to understand the psychological factors that drive consumer behaviour.

Psychographic insights help businesses tailor their marketing and product development efforts to better meet the needs and preferences of their target audience.

For example, a company might segment its market based on customers' lifestyle choices and design marketing campaigns that resonate with each segment.

39. Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is a method of inquiry that focuses on understanding people's experiences, behaviours, and perceptions. It involves collecting non-numerical data through methods like interviews, focus groups, and observations.

This type of research provides in-depth insights into the motivations and feelings behind actions, helping businesses understand their customers better.

40. Quantitative Research

Quantitative research involves collecting and analysing numerical data to identify patterns, trends, and relationships. This method uses structured tools like surveys, questionnaires, and statistical analysis to gather measurable information.

Quantitative research helps businesses make data-driven decisions by providing objective, quantifiable evidence.

41. Real-Time Analytics

Real-time analytics refers to the process of analysing data as soon as it becomes available. This allows organisations to gain immediate insights and make timely decisions based on the latest information.

Real-time analytics is essential for industries where rapid response is critical, such as finance, healthcare, and retail.

42. Scenario Planning

Scenario planning is a strategic method used to envision and prepare for multiple possible futures. It involves creating detailed narratives about different ways the future could unfold, based on various assumptions and uncertainties.

This approach helps organisations develop flexible strategies that can adapt to changing conditions. For instance, a company might use scenario planning to explore the potential impacts of economic downturns, technological advances, or regulatory changes.

Read: The 5 Types of Scenario Planning for Businesses

43. Soft Trends

Soft trends are future events or developments that are based on assumptions and can be influenced or changed. They are projections rather than certainties, making them flexible and subject to modification.

Understanding soft trends helps organisations prepare for various possibilities and shape their strategies accordingly. For example, the potential increase in remote work is a soft trend that businesses can influence through policy and technology investments.

44. Strategic Decision Support System (SDSS)

A Strategic Decision Support System (SDSS) is a computer-based tool designed to help organisations make informed strategic decisions. It integrates data, analytical models, and user-friendly interfaces to support complex decision-making processes.

SDSS helps businesses analyse various scenarios, evaluate options, and predict outcomes, enhancing the quality and efficiency of strategic planning.

For instance, a retail chain might use an SDSS to decide on optimal locations for new stores by analysing demographic data, market trends, and competitor presence.

Read: The role of SDSS in decision-making with Trendtracker

45. Strategic Early Warning Systems

Strategic Early Warning Systems are tools designed to detect early signs of potential threats and opportunities in the business environment.

These systems monitor various indicators, such as market trends, economic data, and geopolitical developments, to provide timely alerts.

By anticipating changes, organisations can proactively adjust their strategies and mitigate risks.

46. Strategic Planning

Strategic planning is the process of defining an organisation's direction and making decisions on allocating resources to pursue this direction. It involves setting goals, analysing internal and external environments, and developing action plans to achieve the objectives.

Strategic planning helps organisations align their activities with their long-term vision and adapt to changing circumstances.

47. STEEP(LE) Analysis (Foresight scanning framework)

STEEP(LE) analysis is a foresight scanning framework that examines five (or more) external factors that could impact an organisation: Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political, (Legal, and Ethical). By analysing these dimensions, businesses can identify emerging trends, risks, and opportunities.

This comprehensive approach helps organisations anticipate and adapt to external changes. For example, an automotive company might use STEEP(LE) analysis to assess how environmental regulations and technological innovations will influence the future of transportation.

An image of STEEPLE analysis for foresight scanning and emerging trends

48. System Thinking

System thinking is an analytical approach that views complex entities as interconnected and interdependent systems. Instead of focusing on individual components, system thinking examines how parts interact and influence each other within the whole system.

This holistic perspective helps organisations understand the broader context of issues and develop comprehensive solutions.

49. S-curve / Sigmoid curve / Logistic growth

The S-curve, also known as the sigmoid curve or logistic growth, is a model that describes how a system grows over time. It starts with a slow growth phase, followed by rapid growth, and eventually plateaus as it reaches a limit. This model is commonly used to represent the lifecycle of products, technologies, and markets. For example, the adoption of smartphones followed an S-curve, with slow initial uptake, explosive growth, and a plateau as the market became saturated.

s-curve: evolution of trend life-cycle

50. The Futures Wheel

The Futures Wheel is a visual tool used to explore the potential consequences of a change or event. It starts with a central idea and branches out into direct and indirect impacts, creating a web of interconnected outcomes. This tool helps organisations understand the ripple effects of decisions and anticipate secondary impacts.

51. Three Horizon Model

The Three Horizon Model is a strategic framework that helps organisations manage innovation and growth over time. It divides planning into three horizons: Horizon 1 focuses on maintaining and improving current operations, Horizon 2 explores emerging opportunities, and Horizon 3 envisions long-term innovations.

This model helps businesses balance short-term performance with long-term transformation.

52. Trend Analysis

Trend analysis is the process of examining data to identify patterns or trends over time. By analysing historical data, businesses can understand how certain factors have evolved and predict future developments.

Trend analysis helps organisations make informed decisions by highlighting areas of growth or concern. For example, a company might analyse sales data to identify seasonal trends and plan inventory accordingly.

53. Trend Board

The Trend Board is a feature of Trendtracker that provides a visual representation of key trends. It allows users to track, compare, and analyse trends in an interactive format.

The Trend Board helps organisations understand the relationships between different trends and their implications, which is essential for strategic decisions. For example, a marketing team might use the Trend Board to visualise consumer behaviour trends and plan their campaigns accordingly.

GIF of a woman explaining how to use Trend Board
Learn how to make your own Trend Board with Trendtracker

54. Trend Radar

The Trend Radar is a feature of Trendtracker that offers a dynamic overview of emerging trends. It highlights trends at various stages of development, from early signals to fully established trends.

The Trend Radar helps businesses identify new opportunities and threats early on that are vital for making informed strategic decisions. For instance, a company might use the Trend Radar to spot upcoming regulatory changes that could impact its operations.

GIF of a woman explaining Trendtracker's Trend Radar
Learn how to spot early signals with our Trend Radar with this easy to follow explainer

55. Trendtracker

Trendtracker is an AI-powered strategic intelligence platform designed to monitor and analyse global trends. It provides businesses with real-time insights into industrial and societal dynamics, helping them stay competitive and relevant.

Trendtracker uses advanced data analytics to track emerging trends and forecast their potential impact. For example, a company might use Trendtracker to monitor technological advancements and adjust its innovation strategy accordingly.

Want know how your company can make the best out of Trendtracker? Let's get started today!

56. Threat Intelligence

Threat intelligence involves collecting and analysing information about potential threats to an organisation's security. This can include data on cyberattacks, vulnerabilities, and threat actors. By understanding these threats, businesses can develop strategies to protect their assets and respond effectively.

57. Trend Analysis

Trend analysis is the process of examining data to identify patterns or trends over time. By analysing historical data, businesses can understand how certain factors have evolved and predict future developments.

Trend analysis helps organisations make informed decisions by highlighting areas of growth or concern. For example, a company might analyse sales data to identify seasonal trends and plan inventory accordingly.

58. Trend Forecasting

Trend forecasting involves predicting future developments based on identified trends. This process uses historical data, current indicators, and expert insights to estimate how trends will evolve. Trend forecasting helps businesses anticipate changes and prepare strategies to leverage opportunities or mitigate risks.

59. Trend Scoring

Trend Scoring is a feature of Trendtracker that evaluates and ranks trends based on their relevance and potential impact. This scoring system helps businesses prioritise which trends to focus on, ensuring they allocate resources effectively.

For instance, a company might use Trend Scoring to identify the most critical trends in sustainability and align its product development efforts with these priorities.

60. Uncertainty

Uncertainty refers to the lack of certainty or predictability in events or outcomes. It arises from incomplete information, complexity, and the inherent unpredictability of future conditions.

Managing uncertainty involves developing flexible strategies and contingency plans to adapt to unforeseen changes.

For example, businesses might face uncertainty regarding regulatory changes or technological advancements and must be prepared to pivot their strategies accordingly.

61. Weak signals

Weak signals are early indications of potential changes or emerging trends that are not yet widely recognised or understood.

They often appear as subtle, fragmented, or ambiguous pieces of information. Identifying and interpreting weak signals helps organisations anticipate and prepare for future developments before they become mainstream.

For example, a sudden increase in social media mentions of a new technology might be a weak signal of its growing popularity.

62. Value Chain Analysis

Value chain analysis is a method for examining the activities that create value for a product or service. It involves breaking down the process into primary and support activities, identifying where value is added, and where improvements can be made.

This analysis helps businesses optimise their operations and increase efficiency. For instance, a company might use value chain analysis to streamline its manufacturing process and reduce costs.

63. Zoom-In Analysis

Zoom-In Analysis is a focused examination of a specific component or aspect of a larger system or issue. This method allows organisations to gain detailed insights and understand the nuances of a particular element, which can inform more precise and effective strategies.

For example, a business might use zoom-in analysis to closely study customer feedback on a single product feature, leading to targeted improvements that enhance overall user satisfaction.

Image of the Trendtracker platform

Here we are at the end. All of these terms will help you navigate the sometimes complex language in this sector. Bookmark this glossary, share it with colleagues and let it be your companion in navigating the world of strategic intelligence.