By John Hughes | December 13th, 2019.
Weak Signal Monitoring is a term, originally used in military contexts, is now becoming a mainstream part of business and management. Earthquake sensors are a good example where listening posts for seismic signals are carefully distributed to provide an early warning of tectonic activity to anticipate tremors and quakes. This allows action to be taken ahead of the major impacts such earthquakes and tidal waves. There are several apps now that will notify, track and rate all quakes.
Why did so many people miss the subprime signals of imminent market collapse? How did Blockbuster miss the rise of Netflix? Well, we are all human, subject to cognitive biases, fears and linear thinking. Then there is our appetite for simple answers in a complex world.
Add in stubborn world views, ego and hubris, and we can see why weak signals can be easily dismissed, as they are, after all, weak signals. Weak signals are often unstructured information, fuzzy blips on the perceptual radar that seem inconvenient, but not a big deal.
As a Radical Strategy, Weak Signal Monitoring invites us to notice, and even welcome, the wild facts and rogue phenomena. Giving a name to the weak signal can help, getting all eyes on it and scanning together to see that it may represent an early warning or be the missing item needed to steer future strategy. .
“The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed.”
William Gibson (The Economist, 2003)
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