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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Organizational Scanning For Threats & Opportunities

There’s a saying that luck is the residue of hard work and when preparation meets opportunity, out comes success. Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge, has an interesting preview of "Scanning for Threats and Opportunities", which brings out in a very telling way the key differences between "active" and "passive" scanning of the competitive landscape and the emerging business place horizon.
To see new parts of the periphery, managers must use different scanning approaches and a portfolio of scanning methods to capture and amplify the weak signals within targeted zones of the periphery: inside the firm; customers and channels; the competitive space (competitors and complementors); technologies, political, social, and economic forces; and influencers and shapers. The figure brings forth the key themes to capture signals from the periphery. The article highlights passive scanning for information as reinforcing beliefs and active scanning as the basis for explorative thinking:

"Because most of the data comes from familiar or traditional sources, this mode of scanning tends to reinforce, rather than challenge, prevailing beliefs. Because these metrics are tightly specified and focused on current operations, they are the antithesis of active scanning. There is no room for exploration. This passive stance narrows the scan and dulls the curiosity. Unexpected and unfamiliar weak signals will probably be lost."
“Active scanning calls for new ways to think about the market, emerging technologies, and new business models. Active scanning reflects intense curiosity and emphasizes the further-out and fuzzier edge of the periphery.”.

In the tech world, one should just note the Microsoft example – where the deflationary effect of the internet was getting more and more pronounced, Microsoft was probably struck on beliefs held based on its historic success. Lets look at any business today : The effect of the rising online economics, on demand delivery model, convergence effect, global economy, demography, SOX, Private Equity all would have to be factored in any business future forecast scenario – all these constitute active scanning. Organizations entertaining multiple theories will more probably mount search parties using teams of outsiders and insiders, with diverse portfolios of methods. The active scanning process can start with the insights locked inside the company. Each point of contact has the potential to be a valuable listening post. Organization is a self emitting and sensing radar and all parts of it matter. People must engage in frequent and free dialogue for the necessary connections to occur spontaneously. This, in turn, requires a culture of trust, respect, and curiosity, plus the recognition that information sharing is crucial. Oragnizations needs to think through, strategise and then ruthlessly execute - that would define their future..

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