Detecting weak signals in a noisy world

How to work out what’s really going on in our lives?  What are the patterns, and are we certain we understand them?  That’s the increasing challenge in our “noisy” world, where our challenge is not too little information, but access to too much.

Jim Bright teaches at the Australian Catholic University, and late last year wrote two excellent articles in The Sydney Morning Herald‘s (now diminished – who could have predicted that 20 years ago?) employment pages about this very topic:

Learning how to detect weak signals in a complex, changing and noisy world will provide a winning advantage. Developing skills in pattern recognition, judgment in interpretation and having the courage to act on fragmentary data will be increasingly important in a world that teases us with possible futures. (November 28, “How to see the future”).

Science reminds us that it is not only economists that get it wrong (although to be fair, unlike economists, scientists do get a lot of things right). As Paul Samuelson​ said, economists have predicted nine out of the past five recessions. Sometimes decisions made confidently on the best available evidence can turn out to be precisely the wrong thing to do. (November 14, “Nothing more certain than uncertainty”)
How do we develop those skills of analysis?  Experience, synthesis, watching for past patterns and the ability to project them to future scenarios.  That’s what separates true strategic thinkers from the rest.

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