Compensating for perceptual filters in weak signal assessments

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1 Citation (Scopus)


The effect of ambiguous and non-salient information on the managerial interpretive process is rarely investigated, although this information is considered to be the basis for strategic decision-making and requires a different process due to its ill-defined nature. This paper explores the process that outperforming managers used to detect and interpret weak signals. Interviews with 13 top-managers were analyzed using a grounded theory approach to allow the process to emerge. The findings confirmed earlier conclusions on perceptual filters that reduce the number and type of signals assessed. Contrary to earlier findings, the process was significantly altered to compensate for this loss in two ways. First, managers deliberately postponed their assessment of a weak signal by discussing it with people with distinct and second, some managers deliberately searched for signals that were unfamiliar and not fitting their mental model. The sample consisted of outperforming top managers, which raised questions about the generalizability of the findings in specific directions: are the alterations in the weak signal process exemplary for outperformers only, and how does its success compare to formal foresight methods. Finally, the findings have managerial relevance since they indicate how to detect and bring weak signals into the company before impact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Emerging change
  • Perception
  • Perceptual filter
  • Top manager
  • Weak signal

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