There’s no sense in denying it: interpreting weak signals into useful decision making takes time and focus. These three stages can help you see the periphery—and act on it—much more clearly.
Managers will never be able to predict the future as clearly as The Amazing Kreskin. But by making a
deliberate effort, they can develop the clairvoyance they–and those around them–already possess into a potent competitive weapon. Because their antennae are always aloft, executives naturally detect weak signals as they drift in and out of range from the outer edges of their marketplace. How they find, keep and make sense of those faint clues can make all the difference when it comes to getting an early start on confronting a threat or exploiting an opportunity.
In this article, the authors draw from their research into companies that learn from the future. They outline the specific skills managers need to develop–and those they had better lose–to correct their fuzzy vision of what’s ahead. First, the authors identify the different breeds of biases that most managers don’t even realize they have, and provide them with the tools to rout out such distortions. Then they outline nine proven and practical strategies managers can use to find, understand and make use of the most meaningful distant data.
Confronting reality isn’t as straightforward as hushing hunches in favor of high-minded analysis; there has to be room for both. Finally, the authors encourage executives to consider new information within the context of as many wider views of the future marketplace as they can find–tapping the farsighted folks at their company and in their industry. By learning how to extract meaning, managers will grow to understand that the future is plainly ours to see, no matter what the song says. What takes work is piecing those glimpses into a plausible panorama so that managers can see where their company strategy fits–before anyone else does.