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Confidential: Uncover Your Competitors' Top Business Secrets Legally and Quickly--and Protect Your Own Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harperbusiness (July 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006661984X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066619842
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #231,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

People say the darnedest things. They tell you how much money they make, how well their company did in the last quarter, what it'll take to undercut their latest bid on a government project or to undermine their marketing efforts. All you have to do is ask.

John Nolan, a 22-year veteran of international espionage who is currently involved in corporate intelligence-gathering, shows you how to ask, what to ask, when to ask, and whom to ask. The methods can be as simple as deliberately making a misstatement--"The toothpaste division sure missed its projections this quarter"--and getting someone who knows better to correct you, in the process supplying you with the information you want about his company's inner workings. Or they can be as complicated as patiently and doggedly piecing together tiny scraps of information from a number of sources. Whichever you resort to, Nolan shows a conversational method for ensuring that the person dispensing the information doesn't even remember he or she gave it out. No, it's not hypnotism; it's starting and ending a conversation with generalities, and discussing specifics only in the middle, the part of a chat that most people won't recall.

Confidential could be useful to anyone who needs information about a rival, or who needs to protect his or her own company's secrets. Nolan illustrates his points with examples from business (how Johnson & Johnson gathered intelligence that protected its Tylenol franchise from a rival product) as well as fiction (Appendix A is dedicated to the techniques used by Sherlock Holmes to elicit information). The result is an entertaining book that may take your business to a more intelligent level. --Lou Schuler

Review

"The next best thing to knowing all about your own business is to know all about the other fellow's business." -- -- John D. Rockefeller

"Confidential brings into the private sector the most misunderstood, and consequently, underused facet of government intelligencethe human source. In a thoroughly enjoyable fashion, John Nolan educates the reader on how to access and use this critical intelligence resource, for both competitive advantage and security." -- Jan P. Herring, former director of business intelligence, Motorola

"Confidential is a must-read for anyone wanting to conduct and utilize competitive intelligence the right way. Nolan concisely captures the elicitation techniques executives can use to ethically and legally capture competitive information to prevail in the hypercompetitive marketplace." -- Ava Harth Youngblood, president, Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals

"Be it from the clinical investigator or the attorney or the factory worker, unintentional information leaks are flowing like a flood. Written in a revealing and provocative manner, Confidential is must-reading for those who should be guarding shareholders' information assets." -- Lewis W. Lehr, former chairman of the board and chief executive officer, 3M

"John Nolan is the Sherlock Holmes of the new millennium. This is absolutely the best book I have ever read on competitive information elicitation." -- Geary Soska, director of competitor intelligence, Goodyear

"Remarkably thorough, engagingly written, and above all, useful the day one starts to read it, Confidential describes ethical and legal procedures and thought processes that, with some practice, yield greater confidence in decisions that must be made `ahead of the curve.' The increased return on investment in opportunities taken, trade secrets kept, and market advantage gained make Confidential worth its weight in consultants' invoices." -- George A. Dennis, director of competitor intelligence, Bellcore

"The next best thing to knowing all about your own business is to know all about the other fellow's business." -- John D. Rockefeller


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Customer Reviews

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His coverage of each technique is thorough yet clear, and the overall writing makes for a relatively smooth read.
Mathieu M. Guerville
The "good news" is that any organization can (with appropriate modifications) implement a system based on Nolan's Integrated Business Intelligence Model.
Robert Morris
Even readers with squeamish scruples should remember that their competitors will not sit on their hands and let Mr. Nice Guy finish first.
Steve Hardiman (SHardiman@Technologist.com)

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
There isn't a business alive today who isn't faced with stiff, sometimes overpowering, competition. One assumes that the large corporations have the resources to staff and manage a competitive intelligence program. But what about the small to medium companies?
In my practice as a marketing consultant to this size business, I'm amazed at how little companies often know about the competitors who are eating them for lunch. And then, how do they find the information that can make a difference? Where can they go to find expert help?
It is for precisely those reasons, I picked up this book. What an education I got and have already passed along to clients. The author very succinctly describes the whole gamut..from how to get information all the way to how to protect your company's trade secrets.
Of particular interest to me was the whole section on capitalizing on trade shows. This is typically a major expense yet, the opportunity is mainly wasted because companies don't realize the potential contacts they can make and information they can gather. Worse yet, they have no idea what the risk might be of having their employees give away information to those competitors "in the know" or who have already read this book.
While this topic is quite serious, the author manages to make it an fascinating read. He sprinkles enough stories from his career as a government intelligence officer to keep you guessing.
For anyone who thinks this is all bogus "spy" stuff, guess again. Everything the author recommends is completely legal and aboveboard. Those companies who are out there following his recommendations are pulling ahead of the competition. That's why this book is landing on my clients' desks.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mark Robinson on July 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
John Nolan, a 22 year veteran in the intelligence community, has written what I believe is the best book on the subject of competitive intelligence. Most books on competitive intelligence, more commonly known as CI, focus on the collection and analysis of information from online databases, the Internet, company financial reports, etc. Mr. Nolan's expertise however, is in "elicitation." Elicitation is the process of conversing with another person in a non-threatening manner and have that person unintentionally reveal information about themselves or their companies.
The most valuable parts of the book are those sections that cover the elicitation techniques - there are 17 in all according to Mr. Nolan. Readers will gain valuable insight into each of the techniques and how to use them. Mr. Nolan uses clear and concise examples to make his points.
Once the reader becomes expert at using the elicitation techniques, Mr. Nolan shows how to protect information, what to protect, how to protect it and for how long.
Mr. Nolan's book is engagingly written, and above all, useful the day one starts to read it. 'Confidential' describes ethical and legal procedures and processes that, with some practice, yield greater confidence in decisions that must be made 'ahead of the curve.'
Once I started reading this book, I couldn't put it down!
Mark Robinson, author of "Beyond Competitive Intelligence: The Practice of CounterIntelligence and Trade Secrets Protection."
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Steve Hardiman (SHardiman@Technologist.com) on July 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Bottom line: Leading companies in any industry must make more good decisions faster than the next guy to stay ahead. Ask the "also-rans" and they will tell horror stories lamenting better choices they would have made... if they had had better information. Confidential shows companies exactly how to get the information they need to stay ahead of the competition and "keep up with the Dow Joneses."
All of Nolan's strategies and techniques are legal. Even readers with squeamish scruples should remember that their competitors will not sit on their hands and let Mr. Nice Guy finish first. Citing Nolan, who quotes Frederick the Great: "It is pardonable to be defeated, but never to be surprised."
While the reader is left to speculate about the exact source Nolan's 22 years of Federal service in intelligence collection and counterintelligence special operations on three continents, Confidential reads like "Confessions of an ex-CIA Spy." The focus, however, is on how companies can employ tools of the Intelligence trade to the corporate world.
"Elicitation" is one of those tools. Exploit it in the heat of corporate battle, and it's both the primary assault weapon in the psychological guerilla war for intelligence, and the best defense against would-be infiltrators. Elicitation offers many techniques for obtaining intelligence from people. However, if you just learn Nolan's techniques, you miss the best part: A glimpse inside the mind of a 30-year veteran of intelligence and counterintelligence special operations.
Nolan's Confidential strikes gold - and fear in the hearts of unwary competitors. You may have fallen asleep in economics class and nodded off over many business books, but trust me, they *definitely* don't teach you this at Harvard Business School!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I love the book, but I must say that I was confused that the reviewer "annonymous reader from San Francisco" would say sham on Mr. Nolan for passing something off as original when "they" knew that it existed back in 1995. Gosh, maybe Sun Tsu ideas weren't original either. However, back in the early days of my career in the government - long before 1995, I knew Mr. Nolan - John to his friends - and knew he was one the principal players in the 80's involved in the development of what became known as the Quarterback Approach. At one time they were called "On-Sites." Inside the system this tool continues to be reinvented every few years, much like so many tools that have surely been around since our old friend Sun Tsu.
Perhaps the reader was outside the system or is merely misinformed about the some of the more recent roots of this particular tool.
As a career professional I continue to translate those skills that I developed while a member of the "muddy boots" intelligence community into valued programs for my clients in the private sector. I do not feel guilty about it and my client appreciate it - value it. I am always seeing guys who are considered counter-terrorist experts - who are caching in on the skills they learned along side of me. I don't see any shame in enhancing "technology" even if it doesn't require electric power.
As far a John's book and its content, it has energy. It is one of the best translations of real intelligence methods into common, useful tools I have ever seen. It is a first rate book and I know Mr. Nolan to be a first rate guy.
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