Words-worth - Intelligence

'Intelligence' has two different but related meanings. Confusing them can have unfortunate consequences.

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

In management use, 'business intelligence' means the acquisition of information, often by the use of technology, about one's own operations and those of one's competitors. Some trace the idea that gathering such data will give you a competitive advantage to Sun Tzu's Art of War, written in 500BC. In the 1990s, 'business intelligence' was turned into a full-scale discipline by Howard Dresner of US consultant Gartner. But in traditional usage, information is not the same as intelligence. Since the 14th century, intelligence (from intelligentia, Latin for 'understanding') has meant the faculty of intellect, mental ability and the exercise of that ability. The modern slant, lent glamour by its association with the secret agencies of government, arose in the 17th century. Business intelligence, in the true sense, is a gift enhanced by experience. At its worst, it's available to anyone who can read a spreadsheet.

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