Peripheral Vision: Detecting the Weak Signals That Will Make or Break Your Company. George S. Day, Paul J. H. Schoemaker. Harvard Business Review Press.

Peripheral Vision: Detecting the Weak Signals That Will Make or Break Your Company Book Cover Peripheral Vision: Detecting the Weak Signals That Will Make or Break Your Company
George S. Day, Paul J. H. Schoemaker
Harvard Business Review Press
May 1, 2006

A regional sales manager mentions a rumor about a new competitor. A newspaper article describes devices people implant under their skin to broadcast their ID and medical data during emergencies. A blog initiated by an aggrieved customer begins attracting attention. Events like these, unfolding in the remote regions of your business, often signal hidden opportunities and threats that can profoundly impact your enterprise.

But to seize those opportunities and parry those threats, you must continually detect, interpret, and act on distant signals. Put simply, you need good peripheral vision. Yet less than 20 percent of firms have developed their peripheral vision enough to stay ahead of rivals. Using a diagnostic “eye exam” to test organizations’ peripheral vision, the authors have developed a process for closing the vigilance gap and avoiding being blindsided.

They offer five steps for improving peripheral vision:

  • setting the right scope
  • using multiple methods to scan
  • avoiding common traps to interpret peripheral signals
  • knowing when and how to probe further
  • understanding how to act judiciously to stake out options early

Two final steps help broaden organizational vision:

  • establishing the proper internal organization – vital for strengthening your internal sensing capabilities
  • strengthening leadership – essential for fostering sufficient curiosity and widespread sharing of insights

The book illustrates this powerful metaphor using diverse case studies: how the BBC dealt with the digital, multimedia challenge, Anheuser-Busch’s early response to the low-carb diet revolution, Mattel’s mighty struggles with its Barbie franchise, major transformations in the funeral industry, and lighting manufacturers’ strategies for addressing the threat and promise of new LED technologies.

Packed with vivid examples and potent tools, this timely book helps you hone your peripheral vision, see around the corner, and dominate rivals on the business frontier.

George S. Day is the Geoffrey T. Boisi Professor of Marketing and Codirector of the Mack Center for Technological Innovation at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Paul J. H. Shoemaker is Research Director of Wharton’s Mack Center For Technological Innovation, and founder and Chairman of Decision Strategies International, Inc.