Robert Galvin, Motorola’s CI Pioneer and how the Joint SCIP-ACI Certification Program Has Built on the Lessons He Taught

Posted by Amelia Ehrens on Jul 10, 2012 4:33:00 PM

Robert Galvin, Motorola’s CI Pioneer and how the Joint SCIP-ACI Certification Program Has Built on the Lessons He Taught
CI Magazine | July 2012 | By Leonard Fuld


Robert Galvin, former chief executive of Motorola and the person most responsible for building the company into a global electronics company, died last October.  Galvin shaped post-World War II Motorola into a technology innovator, the Intel or Cisco of its day.  However there is a back story that Robert Galvin told me about his experience with how government applied intelligence. It was this experience that helped shape Galvin’s view of what has since become known as competitive intelligence. 

Galvin – along with an actress, an atomic scientist, and a couple of other very smart individuals - achieved one other great accomplishment:  they shed light on the United States’ intelligence program.  This is the story Robert Galvin told me when I interviewed him in 2004 (any political inaccuracies or errors are the author’s). In a sidebar accompanying this article I will reflect on the lessons the CIP™ certification program learned from Galvin and other pioneers in the field – lessons hard won, supported by corporate success and experience.

We have several instances in our recent history where faulty intelligence assessments led us astray. A 2004 Senate hearing concluded that it was group think and just plain poor intelligence that took us into Iraq. 

In 1975, similar sentiments during the post-Watergate era encouraged then President Gerald Ford to establish the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) with the CIA head, George Herbert Walker Bush, setting the mechanism in motion.  The PFIAB (now known as the PIAB) was to provide a check and balance on the various government intelligence agencies.  An Executive Order issued on February 29, 2008 essentially stripped the PIAB of this oversight privilege.

Let’s move the calendar pages back to the mid-seventies to see how effective the PFIAB truly was and how we may sorely miss its quiet advice in years to come.

In 1974, Major General George Keegan, assistant chief of staff responsible for intelligence for the U.S. Air Force, began to argue that the Soviet Union intended to prepare for war – and not just co-exist with the United States, as intelligence estimates had concluded for nearly the previous decade. 

General Keegan convinced the PFIAB members, who then met six times a year, that the National Intelligence Estimates (NIE) was off-base in estimating Soviet strategic initiatives. He saw evidence of photo reconnaissance for construction of underground shelters, naval construction and new missile systems, all of which convinced Keegan that the Soviet Union was seeking dominance.

The 16-members of the PFIAB at the time included Edwin Land, the inventor of instant  photography; Clare Booth Luce, actress, former congresswoman and ambassador; Edward Teller, father of the H-bomb; George Schultz, former Secretary of the Treasury; John Foster, former director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; and Robert Galvin, Chairman of Motorola. 

Mr. Galvin, along with Teller and Foster, recommended that the PFIAB conduct a competitive analysis to test the assumptions and conclusions emanating from the intelligence community at the time. Galvin, in particular, had found such strategic gaming analysis a useful tool in his years in business.  The group dubbed the exercise “Team A/Team B.”

“It simply passed the common sense test to us,” Galvin recalled. Group think appeared to have ossified the intelligence process back then, he felt, just as the more recent Senate intelligence report identifies it as one of the major stumbling blocks in the case with Iraq.  

"The issues the intelligence agencies were dealing with that were reported through the Secretary of State or Defense and to the President were so complex,” noted Galvin.   “How then could it be that some genius, on a very important desk, could come up with the one and only analysis and recommendation as to what should happen?”

Finally, in June 1975, partly in response sentiments expressed by Galvin and his PFIAB group, George Herbert Walker Bush, Director of Central Intelligence under President Gerald Ford, gave the go-ahead for the PFIAB-proposed intelligence experiment.   Team A would consist of intelligence professionals, appointed from the various agencies.  Team B, though, consisted of an eclectic group, mostly of government outsiders. 

Joining the PFIAB on Team B for this exercise were seven individuals, including Richard Pipes, professor of Russian History at Harvard University, and Paul D. Wolfowitz, then with the Arms Control and Defense Agency and formerly Deputy Secretary of Defense in the second Bush administration.  Led and chaired by Richard Pipes, they formed three Team B groups.   The Team A and Team B sides confronted each other on three occasions.

Because they were treated as intelligence community outsiders, Team B members did not have access to all current classified information. Nevertheless, they digested what information they could and drew conclusions (some of which found their way into the press at the time and rattled government officials). 

A Senate report on the Team A/Team B incident, issued in 1978, listed the intelligence errors committed on the Soviet watch three decades ago and it nearly mirrors the just-released Senate report on Iraq. The 1978 report recommends more “creative use” of other analytical approaches and formats, and a need for competitive and alternate analyses.  In a stinging rebuke to government leadership, the report also states that “Policymakers must define the questions, not the answers.” 

America’s best-managed businesses consistently use Team A/Team B gaming approaches to anticipate a rival’s future moves, ultimately to develop a successful competitive strategy.  Mature management, as Mr. Galvin stated, welcomes contrary opinions from outsiders in the strategic games they play.  As long as our government views the Team A/ Team B concept as an experiment – or worse, a nuisance or threat – rather than as a necessary improvement, more intelligence failures may lie ahead.  Our leaders (Mr. Obama included) need to revisit the strategic intelligence exercise of nearly 40 years ago and re-learn the lessons of a different era.  Mr. Galvin, your government along with Corporate America misses you – and Team B.

Leonard Fuld interviewed Mr. Galvin in 2004.  He is Chairman of the Fuld Gilad Herring Academy of Competitive Intelligence and President of Fuld & Company a global competitive intelligence firm with offices in Cambridge, London and Manila, and author of The Secret Language of Competitive Intelligence (Dog Ear Publishing, 2010. He can be reached at

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