Weak Signals And The Radical Fringe

We strive to get everyone on the same page, to align the crew in a shared direction. The thinking goes – If we’re all pulling in the same direction, we’ll get there faster and more efficiently. Yes, the destination will come sooner, but what if it’s not there when we get there?

There’s implicit permanence to our go-forward travel plans. We look out three years and plan our destination as if today’s rules and fundamentals will still apply. We think – That imaginary tropical vacation spot will be beautiful in three years because it looks beautiful through the kalidascope of today’s success. But as the recent natural disasters have taught us, whole islands can be destroyed in an instant. But still, the impermenance of today’s tried-and-true business models is lost on us, and we see the unknowable future as statically as the unchangeable map of the continents.

Thing is, all around us there are weak indications the fundamental tradewinds have started to shift – weak signals of impermenance that may invalidate today’s course heading. But weak signals are difficult to hear – the white noise of yesterday’s success drowns out the forward-looking weak signals.  And more problematic, once heard, weak signals are easily dismissed because their song threatens the successful status quo.

You feel weak signals in your chest. It could be a weak signal when your experience tells you things should go one way and they actually go another. Martin Zwilling (Forbes) has some great examples. (Thanks to Deb Mills-Scofield [@dscofield] for retweeting the article.)

100% alignment reduces adaptability because it deadens us to weak signals, and that’s a problem in these times of great impermanence. To counter the negative elements of alignment, there must be a balancing injection of healthy misalignment.  This is an important and thankless task falls on the shoulders of a special breed – the radical fringe.  They’re the folks smart enough to knit disjointed whispers into coherent ideas that could unravel everything and brave enough to test them.

Disruptive movements and revolutions build momentum quietly and slowly.  But if you can recognize them early, there’s a chance you can get into position to ride their tsunami instead of being ambushed and scuttled by it.  But you’ve got to listen closely because these young movements are stealthy and all they leave in their wake are weak signals.

One Response to “Weak Signals And The Radical Fringe”

  • Andrew:

    Great article Mike! I often feel like the pebble in someone’s shoe, though I don’t mind. Would feel right otherwise.

    Recently, I went to a leader with an idea. I was told that it was ahead of it’s time and I should sit on it for a while. One of the most disappointing meetings of my career.

    I’m hoping it was a “disruptive movement” that is recognized before too late.

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Mike Shipulski Mike Shipulski
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