Jack Uldrich
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How a Futurist Looks for "Weak Signals"

Posted in Business, Creativity, Future, Futurist, Innovation, Weak Signals

One of the more valuable tools when attempting to anticipate future changes is to look for “weak signals.” As a professional futurist, I have developed a number of methods over the length of my career to help clients and audiences do this.

First, I begin by framing the future. This “frame,” however, is usually much larger than people expect. To set the stage, I introduce clients to the notion of exponential growth and encourage them to take a swim in the lake of tomorrow. Next, I work with them to develop a future bias and keep an open mind to what might be possible in the future. (Hint: Tomorrow’s possibilities frequently sound impossible today and this is why people must think far outside the box in order to pick up on many weak signals.) In short, I always remind them to think 10X, not 10%. Later, I work with my clients to develop scenarios that expand upon these weak signals.

Deciphering weak signals also requires new methods of thinking. To help clients, I often start with some situational unawareness training — that’s right “unawareness” training. Translating weak signals into “actionable intelligence” is all about “seeing what we are not seeing.” To do this, I instruct them how to embrace ambiguity by training their mind to view the world differently, and learning to see the world around us through the eyes of a child.

Some of the more enjoyable and intriguing methods I use to probe, expand upon and think about weak signals include: questioning assumptionsstudying the back pages of the newspaperdropping the pastexploring historylistening to the fringetaking an anti-disciplinary approach to the future; and even looking for irony and listening to absurd-sounding ideas.

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