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Leonard Fuld, author of The Secret Language of Competitive Intelligence: How to See Through & Stay Ahead of Business Disruptions, Distortions, Rumors & Smoke Screens (Crown Business, $25), takes a moment to speak with us about his new book and what "CI" really is. By Chris Tucker.


What's Competitive Intelligence, and where do we find it?
It's all kinds of bits and pieces of information that give insight and competitive advantage. It could be something learned from a trade show, a document, or a conversation your sales people have.

So it's not spying, but it's not just browsing the New York Times either?
No. Browsing is not in the CI lexicon. It's not a laid-back pursuit. It's aggressive.

What's Rule No. 1 of CI?
Wherever money is exchanged, information is exchanged. It's there if you know how to look.

What are some of the enemies of good CI?
Groupthink is one - drawing conclusions based on what "everybody knows is true." And there's denial. For almost a decade, Kodak denied that digital cameras threatened its business. They said sales declined because of a recession or some other problem.

Of course, the IBMs and Microsofts of the world make big investments in CI. Can little guys also play the game?
Everyone should play. Small companies may actually have an advantage because they're closer to the street and what's really going on, with fewer layers of bureaucracy to penetrate.


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Call It In
Can the commute. The first travel-ready (6.5" by 3.3" by 1.2") handheld to marry a Windows XP-enabled computer with a Windows Mobile 5.0-equipped smartphone, DualCor's cPC brings the office to your front pocket. Place calls, check e-mail, access PDA functions, or fill a 30 GB hard drive with videos and presentations. A five-inch LCD touch screen makes navigation even more simple than stuffing it in your carry-on. $1,500. www.dualcor.com
- S.S.



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Brain Food
Urbanites wanting to sharpen mental acuity are reviving conversational salons across the United States - and in doing so, they're fulfilling a need for intellectual exercise and a desire for stronger community ties. (Not to mention that medical research shows that people who engage their minds well into old age can stave off memory loss and disease.)

The most common salon format is the neighborhood book club, though some salons are more radical - members meet with the goal of effecting social or political change. Indeed, Napoleon Bonaparte confessed to having more difficulty quashing opposition from brilliant women like original salon hostess Madame de Staël than from jealous generals. - Amanda Howe

Some of the best places to fill up on food for thought:

Institute for Interesting People, www.iipdallas.com
Salon hostess Regen Fearon brings thought leaders such as Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell and satirist Andy Borowitz to Dallas.

Elgin Salon, www.elginsalon.org
A group of self-described vintage hippies who converse for pleasure's sake near Chicago.

The Future Salon www.futuresalon.org
The future is now, according to these San Francisco-area digerati.

Cambridge Saloon Salon www.naturalism.org/css.htm
Leave it to civilized Bostonians to combine beer and stimulating conversation.

Meetup.com. Start your own salon offline by using this popular website that brings together people with shared interests or causes.