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The Importance of Peripheral Vision

The air is clear and fresh at 6000 feet, and I can see the snow covered roofs of the chalets in the valley below.  Just ahead a pristine white slope punctuated with a few hundred moguls’ presents a challenge for my knees and stamina, but also a whole lot of fun. From the top I pick my line, turn my skis to the edge, take a deep breath and push off.   My ski instructor has admonished me to keep my shoulders facing down the slope and not to run straight into the bumps, but go up the sides and pivot near the top such that I use the slope of the bump to control my speed. The first few turns go well but as the slope steepens so my speed increases I become focussed on one thing, which is just to stay in control. Then it happens. From out of nowhere another skier, even more out of control than me, is flying in from the right side on a collision course. My only course is to swerve to the left and straight into the nearly vertical face of big mogul I was hoping to avoid. The wipe out is messy and leaves me with one ski on and the other cheerfully bouncing away down the slope on its own.   As I stumble down the slope to retrieve my other ski I remember the other thing my ski instructor reminded me do, which was to always be mindful of my peripheral vision, since that how you avoid unpleasant surprises. It also made me think about the importance of peripheral vision in other areas of life. We typically think of peripheral vision as an ocular skill, but it’s also a great skill to develop when trying to steer a project or even an entire company through the bumps of market forces and competition.

In their book ‘Peripheral Vision: Detecting the Weak Signals That Will Make or Break Your Company, Day and Schoemaker describe how successful companies often share one key characteristic, which is that they remain vigilant of the ‘weak signals’ that come from the edges of the organisation, and this allows them to be highly adaptive. It’s often the case that someone in an organisation knows about an issue that ‘blindsides’ a company long before it happens, but just didn’t have the right channels of communication to the person who needed to know. The problem isn’t lack of data, but lack of appropriate filtering to isolate the signals from the noise, and providing the channels through which that data can reach those strategic thinkers who are vigilant and can take action.  It’s not about what you know, but what you don’t know.

Subex Ltd. developed the ROC, (Revenue Operations Centre), to not only sit at the centre of their suite of award winning products, but also to assimilate data ‘signals’ from all areas of a business to provide a high level view of those KPI which let executives know that things may not be going to plan. Through a combined process of ETL and data federation ROC provides a conduit through which those faint signals can be collected, amplified with advanced analytics, filtered, and then channelled in near real time to the right people.

Executives need to ask the right questions. They need to ask why they didn’t know something was going to happen before it happened. To do that they need to improve their peripheral vision, keep vigilant and always be ready to act on the signals coming in from the edge of their business.

Mark Jenkins

Mark Jenkins has worked in the IT industry for over 15 years as a BI and Analytics consultant, and more recently as ROC Product Manager for Subex Ltd. He has designed and deployed solutions for global companies in many sectors including Insurance, utilities and telecommunications. Mark holds a BSc Hons in Computer Science from Manchester University (UK).

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