Weak Signals Interpretation to prevent strategic surprises: a literature review

Proceedings of ‏The 4th International Conference on Business, Management and Economics

Year: 2020

DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.33422/4th.icbmeconf.2020.12.60

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Weak Signals Interpretation to prevent strategic surprises: a literature review

Ali Boutout, Ph.D. Rachid Wahabi



Owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, most companies have suffered tremendous losses while others were able to find some opportunities by adapting their activities to this particular context marked by strong uncertainty. Igor Ansoff’s theory of weak signals offers a possible theoretical framework for preventing in advance such strategic surprises and ways to gradually prepare for them. Purpose: The aim is to present a theoretical panorama on the role and the limits of weak signals in the prevention of strategic surprises according to the interpretations proposed by the researchers who have treated this subject. Approach: In the context of this paper, we will examine this theory by reviewing the literature from Ansoff’s founding text.  Findings: Ansoff’s theory and its positivist developments should be taken in moderation since there are discontinuities that arrive without being announced by weak signals such as wild cards. Also, the influence of the real-life and experience of the observer is not without effects on how he interprets the weak signals detected in the periphery. Originality: The added value of this paper lies in its synthetic character serving to highlight the scientific debate around the concept of weak signals.

Keywords: Weak signals – Strategic surprise – Foresight – Environmental Scanning – Peripheral analysis.