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Weak Signals on Cooperation

We all know

of someone ignoring weak feelings of pain, or a continuing cold that later were diagnosed as indicators of a serious illness. On the other hand we know people who complain every day about new signals of disorder but no disease is diagnosed and they live on without any illness.

It is rather complex not to make a mistake in reacting weak signals by ignoring or overreacting. Some tools to prevent making a mistake.

Unraveling complexity

We are talking about humans in organizations. So about ‘open systems’. Many ‘natural changes’ have influence. Coming from outside but also from inside a system. Human behavior cannot easily predicted as it is at any specific moment influenced by many factors. Many factors at the outside fluctuate out of our control.

Organisations are open systems because humans are in charge, not machines. Closed systems like machines or software programs control themselves within strict limits and shut down when one signal is in ‘red’.

Handling weak signals in human behavior is difficult. Detecting, interpreting, valuing, evaluating consequents of optional actions, deciding, executing, measuring effects…….


Two systems active

We are very sensitive and our brain works very good because we have two systems active all the time. A lineair system that puts thoughts, actions in a right sequence. This system makes us effective and efficient. Once a target is set, all thinking and acting is according to high levels of routine.

A monitoring, alert, system scans bits of signals and orders it in patterns. Well known patters or even new not existing patterns. The linear brain designs optional actions. The monitoring brain test the optional consequents and decides what action pattern fits best. The lineair system starts working. The monitoring system steers with feedback: go or no/go.

Open alerting.

Detecting weak signals is detecting change in progress. In cooperating two types of changes are of interest. Signals of decompensation, disintegration of a cooperation and signals of forming new structures, new systems, creating cooperation.

Being alert on signals of disintegration is done by a general scanning activity on changes in patterns in all involved systems. Signals of new forming cooperations is done by detecting specific progressive changes in specific actions. A very focussed activity.

Weak signals indicating disintegrating cooperation.

What to do?

But before the action: how to interpret? An example of different reactions to a simple fact:

What is the most open action?

- Ignore? No. Ignoring is never real ignoring. One can not give a reaction. The fact cannot be ignored anymore, it happend. One can act to the other person, when meeting him spontaneously, as if it did not happen. The other might think: they did not notice I was not in that meeting, or, they noticed but it is not important me being there or being absent, or, he forgot the incident, or,…A lot of fantasies that make the cooperation more and more complex.

- Test? Yes. More open is: When meeting, inquire for the reasons for being absent. And, agree on a rule to for-informing.

The golden sequence

When testing signals always follow the golden rule for checking on cooperation: Act according to the steps:

- Do we still share the same goal, pay back, in our cooperation?

- Do we still agree on what each of us contributes?

- Do we still agree on the rules for our cooperation?

- Are we still able to overcome blockades?

Ton Voogt

June 3 2015

More on this topic in


Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, fast and slow, 2011

© 2017 TonVoogtConsultancy ~ Recent Update 24-08-2017
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