"Genius is in-born, may it never be still-born."

"Oysters, irritated by grains of sand, give birth to pearls. Brains, irritated by curiosity, give birth to ideas."

"Brainpower is the bridge to the future; it is what transports you from wishful thinking to willful doing."

"Unless you keep learning & growing, the status quo has no status."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: 'PERIPHERAL VISION', by George Day & Paul Schoemaker

[Extracted from the 'Optimum Performance Technologies' weblog.]

'Peripheral Vision' is quite a catchy title.

For all intents & purposes, it is a very fascinating book, filled with superb insights.

From my personal perspective, "Peripheral Vision' rides on a much larger issue that has strategic ramifications for businesses as well as for individuals in today's chaotic world.

Mercer Management Consulting calls it 'Strategic Anticipation', & they define it as `the ability to get it, to spot an emergent opportunity & chart a path there before the competition does.'

In fact, one of their VPs, Adrian Slywotzky, has even written a book about it in the late 90's. It's called 'Profit Patterns' which provides a powerful discipline to see order beneath the chaos, based on the company's ground-breaking research into over 200 companies in 40 industries.

They have identified some thirty patterns.

I call it anticipatory prowess.

The two authors of 'Peripheral Vision' come with excellent credentials.

George Day wrote 'Market Driven Organisation' & 'Market Driven Strategy'.

Paul Schoemaker wrote 'Profting from Uncertainty' & 'Winning Decisions.'

The four books have been my personal favourites. I must compliment the two authors for coming up with a seven stage systemic process model in 'Peripheral Vision.'

It provides practical tools & strategies for building a vigilant organization that is readily attuned to external environmental changes. The 'Strategic Eye Exam', which has been well thought of, is a real gem.

To my great delight, the same model & tools can also apply to the individual.

'Peripheral Vision' draws its intellectual cues from the concept of `splatter vision' which has been mentioned earlier & for the first time in a business book by Wayne Burkan in 'Wide Angle Vision', during the mid-90s.

According to him, the concept involves scanning the entire landscape & looking at the big picture, to consider the signals coming in from every direction, rather than focusing on the individual signals coming from one direction or another.

I understand that it has its origins from an ancient technique practiced by North American natives as part of their survival repertoire. They call it the 'eye of the tracker', which allows them to take in all of a tracking scene, like a wide angle lens, without focusing immediately on anything in particular.

Today, it is practiced by US Secret Service & FBI agents as well as army snipers, police detectives, fighter pilots, truck drivers, animal hunters, bird watchers & other nature observers.

In the martial world, it is known as 'soft eyes', often exemplified by the late Bruce Lee as he fended off fighting opponents with his stealthy anticipatory 'Jeet Kun Do' moves.

As a matter of fact, in the 'Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy', Japan's legendary combat strategist, Miyamoto Mushashi, taught how to 'relax & unfocus' the eyes in order to secure a sure victory during life-&-death duels.

In 'Photo-Reading' developed by Paul Scheele of Learning Strategies Corporation, readers are taught how to use a similar technique, known as 'Photo-Focus', which allow them to absorb massive information with relaxed & unfocused gaze of the reading material.

Anticipatory prowess is a critical survival skill for a company as well as for an individual in today's turbulent world. Our ability to avoid or withstand threats & crises is a function of both our ability to anticipate & our ability to respond quickly.

Applying the seven stage process model alone is inadequate. One must first truly understand how one's mind perceives the world in its many manifestations e.g. data.

When we look at new data, we automatically try to make a match to what we already know & select a pattern from our memory store-house that might apply. This matching process gets influenced not only by what patterns we have stored up, but also our goals, prejudices, fears & passions.

Perception is undoubtedly the first & most important step in turning raw data into reality.

Next is creativity.

Creativity requires seeing things differently as well as doing things differently.

In essence, creativity takes place in the perceptual phase of thinking. This is where our perceptions & concepts are formed & this is where they have to be changed.

According to Edward de Bono, most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic.

I wish to drive home the point that the only sustainable edge a company (or an individual) has over the competitor is the perceptual sensitivity & creative ability of its people, because the competitor can also likewise implement the seven stage process model.

I generally concur that the seven stage process model can readily help in reducing the vigilance gap but as a user one must constantly enhance one's perceptual sensitivity to the world & also be prepared to challenge one's assumptions.

Additionally, one must also be prepared to be exposed & adapted to other new approaches.

In this respect, & in order to broaden & expand one's repertoire of perspectives & tools, I would like to suggest the following supplementary reading to 'Peripheral Vision':

At the Business &/or Organisational Level:

- 'Opportunities: A Handbook of Business Opportunity Search', by Edward de Bono (**must read**);

- 'Future Edge', by Joel Barker (**must read**);

- 'Wide Angle Vision', by Wayne Burkan;

- 'Profit Patterns', by Adrian Slywotzky;

- 'Market Research Matters', by Robert Duboff (a former VP of Mercer Consulting);

- 'Early Warning: Using Competitive Intelligence to Anticipate Market Shifts, Control Risks & Create Powerful Strategies', by Benjamin Gilad (his earlier work, 'Business Blindspots', is also worth exploring);

- 'Heads Up: How to Anticipate Business Surprises & Seize Opportunities First', by Kenneth McGee;

- 'Business Early Warning Systems', by Patrick Caragata;

- 'Harnessing the Power of Intelligence, Counter-Intelligence & Surprise Events', by Alain Martin;

- 'Anticipatory Management', by William Ashley;

- 'Vital Signs', by Melanie Herman (written for non-profit managers but worth exploring);

- 'Managing Business Crises', by John Burnett;

- 'Creating a Market Sensitive Culture', by Ken Langdon;

- 'Developing Strategic Thought', by Bob Garrett (only Chapter 5, which is a real gem. It illustrates strategic 'seeing' from multiple perspectives or viewpoints. A masterpiece from Henry Minzberg!);

At the Personal &/or Professional Level:

- 'Dinosaur Strain', by Mark Brown (**must read**)

- 'It's not the Big that eat the Small', by Jason Jennings (**must read**);

- 'The Power of ImPossible Thinking', by Jerry Wind;

- 'Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way', by Robert Ramsey (written for school principals but worth exploring);

- Anthony Robbins' 'Power Talk (Professional Series): The Power of Anticipation' (**must listen**);

- 'The Titanium Professional', by Hugh Davies;

- 'Who Moved My Cheese?', by Spencer Johnson;

- 'High Impact Leadership', by Mark Sanborn;

To conclude my review, 'Peripheral Vision' is definitely worth exploring, but first be aware of your perceptual sensitivity to the world!

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