Seeing the Futures in Weak Signals

by Peter Saul


Over 40 years ago, Igor Ansoff (author of the first text devoted entirely to corporate strategy), described the important role that detecting and analysing weak signals plays in effective strategic planning. Weak signals are those ambiguous and controversial bits of information about the competitive environment that are typically hidden among the “noise” of the prevailing sensemaking paradigm and that gradually coalesce to form a pattern of intelligence that alerts sensitive leaders that it may be time to change their game. In discussing how organisations learned (or failed) to adapt to a dynamic environment Ansoff wrote: “The evidence that a major change is needed is hidden among these other voluminous signals; it is not loud, clear and unambiguous, like the voice of doom, and it is not welcome information anyway” (Ansoff 1976: 69).(continue…)

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