HBS Working Knowledge has a nice excerpt from “Peripheral Vision: Detecting the Weak Signals that Will Make or Break Your Company”. The authors write about the differences between active and passive scanning to find new opportunities. Many of the inferences the authors make in this book remind me of the traits of a true learning organization. For instance:
“Active scanning reflects intense curiosity and emphasizes the further-out and fuzzier edge of the periphery.”
“To improve the ability to capture the peripheral insights within the organization, there must be (1) appropriate and visible channels for sharing information, (2) wide knowledge of the questions guiding the scan, and (3) incentives for actually sharing useful information. 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. Too many companies still operate in a mode where information is shared on a “need-to-know” basis only.”
IMHO, many KM programs fall into this trap of becoming systems that drive knowledge sharing on a “need-to-know” basis. A debate culture that will hopefully drive deeper dialogue, multi-community membership that will hopefully bring in serendipity (at the intersection of practices) and a workforce that is curious (and allowed to innovate at the edge) are all KM interventions that may improve “Peripheral Vision” of organizations.