About Conversation Kindling

The purpose of this blog is to share stories, metaphors, quotes, songs, humor, etc. in hopes they'll be used to spark authentic and rewarding conversations about working and living fruitfully. There are at least three things you can gain by getting involved in these conversations. First, you'll discover new and important things about yourself through the process of thinking out loud. Second, you'll deepen your relationships with others who participate by swapping thoughts, feelings, and stories with them. Finally, you'll learn that robust dialogue centered on stories and experiences is the best way to build new knowledge and generate innovative answers to the questions that both life and work ask.

I write another blog called My Spare Brain. This is where I am "storing" ideas for use in future books, articles, blog posts, speeches, and workshops. There is little rhyme or reason for what I post there. I do this to encourage visitors to come as treasure hunters looking for new ways of seeing and thinking vs. researchers looking for new or better answers to questions they already know how to ask.

11 September 2009

Splatter Vision

In their book Peripheral Vision: Detecting the Weak Signals that Will Make or Break Your Company, Paul J.H. Schoemaker and George S. Day describe a method the FBI uses to scan large crowds for early signs of trouble:
"The FBI trains its agents to use a scanning approach called splatter vision. This involves scanning a crowd for would-be assassins by looking into the distance and not focusing on anyone in particular. Once the agent fixes a general gaze, he or she looks for deviation or change. Is someone restless, looking around too much, slowly putting a hand into a coat pocket? From among hundreds of faces, the agent seeks a lone assassin; suspicious activity then triggers a more intense focus. By balancing directed and undirected scanning, a single agent can spot signs of trouble across a fairly large area."
This technique is not new; it has been used for centuries by Native Americans to track game in the wilderness. It is also used by fighter pilots in air-to-air combat situations, and in top driver training schools.

Roch Parayre
is a partner with Shoemaker and Day in Decision Strategies International, and a Fellow at the Aresty Institute of Executive Education at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business. In a recent Masters Forum presentation - Scanning the Periphery - he said a figurative version of this technique can be used by companies to pick up weak signals of impending threats or opportunities in their environment. He added that those who do this successfully will gain a significant advantage over competitors who are late to arrive at the table. To do an initial scan, he suggests:

  • What have been our past blind spots?
  • What is happening there now?
  • Is there an instructive analogy from another industry?
  • Who in our industry is skilled at picking up weak signals and acting on them ahead of competition?
  • What important signals are we rationalizing away?
  • What are our mavericks and authors saying?
  • What are our peripheral customers and competitors really thinking?
  • What future surprises could hurt or help us?
  • What emerging technologies could change the game?
  • Is there an unthinkable scenario?
"The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little that we can do to change, until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds." - R.D. Laing
"Planning for the future without a sense of history is like planting cut flowers." - Daniel Boorstin
"Illusions mistaken for truth are the pavement under our feet. They are what we call civilization." - Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
"Often do the spirits of great events stride on before the events, and in today already walks tomorrow." - Friedrich Schiller
"The punch that knocks a man out is the punch that he doesn't see. Have you ever seen the pea in the shell game? The man who works the game must have the ability to direct attention to the wrong area. That's what happens in boxing." - Cus D'Amato, boxing trainer and manager.

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