Emergent Node

Weak Signal Research

What is an Emergent Node?
This page is what we call an "Emergent Node" on our website. As articles are published to the
Journal of Transition Management, we notice that they can be grouped into different categories. Every so often we'll pull one of these categories together and create a topical index and summary of the pertinent articles. Click on the button at the bottom of this page to view a list of other emergent nodes on the website.

Weak Signal Research Paper
Part I: Introduction to Weak Signal Research Just what is Weak Signal Research, and why is it important? Some definitions and stories to illustrate the basic principles are included here.
Part II: Information Theory If we're going to talk about weak signals, it might be helpful to know how engineers and scientists think about and work with signals in general. This part is an introduction to Claude Shannon and Norbert Wiener and their work in the field.
Part III: Sampling, Uncertainty and Phase Shifts in Weak Signals This is a continuation of the information theory covered in part II but with a stronger metaphorical connection to how organizations hunt for weak signals and some of the things that trip them up in the process.
Part IV: Evolution and Growth of the Weak Signal to Maturity A metaphorical hypothesis on how weak signals are formed in the economy, how they propagate and grow to become ecosystems of strong signals.
Part V: A Process Model for Weak Signal Research Two models are presented as rudimentary methodologies for running a WSR program. The first shows the interaction between players in the game; the second focuses on steps in the process.
Associated Papers and Archival Material
Envisioning the Future: The Weak Signal Research Model This model of Weak Signal Research emerged during the WSR Workshop held at the Hilton Head knOwhere store in May, 1997. It describes in detail the system of activities leading up to the first phase transition and also presents a detailed example of how the model works.
Miller's Living Systems Model James Grier Miller has produced one of the most wonderful expositions on how life works ever written. His 19 component model has stood the test of time and and can be applied directly to our organizations to gain insight and assistance in redesign.
Forecasting An article from the Taylor archives that boils all of WSR down into an elegant nutshell. If you just want an overview of the subject, read this and skip the rest.
Scenario Building Another archive document that describes how to do a Scenario exercise in a DesignShop. If you're new to the network, compare this description with current practice!
Glossary of Weak Signal Terms Just what it says.
Delphis Archive material that illustrates a technique that you can use to gather weak signals. Son of a gun! it also serves as a mechanism for propagating weak signals, although the article doesn't mention that. Second Foundationers beware! This shows the process for designing the iterated questionnaire. It works kind of like Patch Theory...
Inspectional Reading If you don't have time to read Mortimer Adler's book How To Read a Book, then this is the next best thing. A good technique to apply to WSR if you must cull through loads of articles.
Rules of the Web An application of Stuart Kauffman's Patch Theory to the art of collaborative design in a DesignShop. The paper presents a set of rules by which large groups can divide into patches, and using only random connections between individuals for communication--and no hierarchy or central control--develop a cohesive product as a web in addition to high fitness level products as patches. The rules are applicable to organizing to conduct weak signal research.
Phase Transitions in The Emergence of Weak Signals This short paper hypothesizes the existence of two phase transitions in the life of weak signals: one when the signal is first invented or discovered, and the other when the signal is on the verge of becoming mainstream. The article examines the typical behavior of the growth of the signal between these two phase transitions.
Related MG Taylor Models
Appropriate Response A filtering model that can be used in building scenarios of weak signals and also for evaluating the signals themselves, or the organizational response to a weak signal threat or opportunity.
'Spoze The basic "what-if" model that serves as the philosophical underpinning for WSR. If you can't play 'spoze, then turn in your membership to the WSR club and your secret decoder ring as well! :-)

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