Peripheral Vision: Detecting the Weak Signals That Will Make or Break Your Company, talks about how to watch the periphery so you aren't blindsided by changes in customer behavior or a new competitor in an adjacent market. The authors are George Day (Wharton bio; Professor of Marketing and Codirector of the Mack Center for Technological Innovation at Wharton) and Paul Schoemaker (Wharton bio; Research Director at the Mack Center for Technological Innovation at Wharton and Chairman of Decision Strategies International).
As an industry analyst, figuring out the coming changes in the market is what the job is all about. Starting out as an analyst almost ten years ago, I got lucky: when I worked at Aberdeen Group, I covered both the business intelligence and content management markets. Since they both deal with information, a trend in one market--not surprisingly--often happens slightly later in the other. Most analysts never see the correlation, because they're forced to specialize in one market or the other. Because I covered both, I could see the larger pattern, and made accurate prognostications that stunned vendors in the disrupted market: they never saw it coming. I've had multiple vendors and enterprises say to me, "What you predicted is uncanny. How did you know that?" If they read this book they'd know the answer. (It also explains why I keep my hand in on the BI space, even though I no longer officially cover it at Burton Group.)
Peripheral Vision codifies a lot of the things I've done by instinct, such as learning from the past, playing out unthinkable scenarios, and scanning non-standard sources of information. However, it also suggest strategies I've never thought of, such as the importance of triangulation and making deliberate mistakes.
After arguing that monitoring the periphery is important, the book splits the problem into seven parts:
- Scoping: Where to Look
- Scanning: How to Look
- Interpreting: What the Data Mean
- Probing: How to Explore More Closely
- Acting: What to Do with These Insights
- Organizing: How to Develop Vigilance
- Leading: An Agenda for Action
Probably what's best about the book, however, is its sense of balance. Although it argues that monitoring the periphery is important, it doesn't think it's the be all and end all. Instead, it goes over strategies that will help enterprises mitigate the risk, suggesting that monitoring weak signals should lead to investigating a number of things, but that continuing to probe without over committing is critical.
If your job requires you to be a pattern finder, or you want to get better at it, I highly recommend that you read this book.