Strong signals about things going the wrong way are easy to notice in an organization - or even to measure by numbers. Strong signals will show up anyway and everybody will be concerned about them. When we notice strong signals we know that something needs to be done. Weak signals however are more challenging but also equally important. They are based on intuition and feelings. In an organizational or team setting, how can we notice that we are heading the wrong? Are we sure that we are lost? Weak signals are often neglected in organizations in which people don't speak up. they expect that the messenger will be shot or they just don't care. On the other side: in organizations that drive on passion, people might not be ready or able to notice the first indicators of problems along the way - because in passionate organizations people tend to be "belivers".
The Mindsystems Blog
(published by John England) writes on the Theory of Weak Signals:
Have you ever asked, “Why didn’t I see that … it was right under my nose all the time?” What you were expressing is an example of ‘Weak Signal Theory’. The fact is that we are constantly bombarded with ‘Weak Signals’; some because they are genuinely weak and some because out brain has suppressed them. The automatic filtering of information is designed to prevent sensory overload. A good example of such overload is found in autistic children who have difficulty in concentrating. It is not so much that they cannot concentrate rather they do not really know what to concentrate on and how to screen out the ‘background noise’.
If we are going to detect these weak signals, we need to devise a strategy. Firstly, let us jot down some key points. We need to:
- Do something to cut down the background noise
- Be on the alert for the smoke screen that ‘Conventional Wisdom’ can throw up
- Develop techniques to “see the emerging patterns” in the chaos which is information overload
- Look for and expect the unexpected.
- Adjust our attitude to seek success in the unusual and the marginalised ideas and opportunities
(developed by Vesa Purokuru and Antti Huntus)
Questions for Deeper Exploration
- How is the energy for change?
- Is there enough dialogue going to keep us moving?
- What are the small signs of failure or resistance?
- Do we avoid to make decisions?