As Inc. Magazine reports in Spy Games, companies are increasingly using stealth methods used by the likes of the Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”) to conduct research on their competitors. While aggressive competition is good for the market, the question remains whether such tactics end up in a race to the bottom. Rather than focusing on improving product or service quality, these companies try to out sleuth one another, only to likely find out they are hiring the same former CIA talent.
The plot seems oddly similar to the Twilight Zone episode called Mr. Denton on Doomsday. In the episode, gunslinger Al Denton is given another chance to be a top flight slinger by salesman Henry J. Fate. Fate offers Dent a potion that will guarantee to make Dent the fastest gunslinger in the West, but only for ten seconds. Denton swallows the potion when has to face Pete Grant, a younger gunslinger, in a duel. Denton is the company who hires the ex-CIA agent. But, to Denton’s surprise, the younger Grant is holding an empty bottle of the potion. Grant is the competitor who has also hired the same ex-CIA agent.
In the end, each man has the same potion induced ability and shoots one another in the hand. The shots disable them both for the rest of their lives. Fate, the salesman, rides off into the sunset. Perhaps those companies in the marketplace who are keen on regularly using sleuth tactics to get the upper hand on others will find that they are being played against one another by the former CIA agents the companies hire. These ex-agents owe no fiduciary duties to their new employers and either go to the highest bidder, or service several at the same time, just like Fate. In the end, these companies are left no better off than where they started, and sometimes worse off due to the opportunity costs. They have may have expended valuable resources searching for the potion, rather than finding and practicing new gunslinging techniques or, failing that, hanging up the gun for another more prosperous service market.