Weak signals in organizational futures learning

Elina Hiltunen

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


This thesis addresses the issue of anticipating future changes through weak signals and the role of weak signals in organizational futures learning (OFL). The focus of the thesis is to examine weak signals and their related concepts and to test a tool, created by the author, for using weak signals to enhance organizational futures learning. This thesis consists of five articles that approach the dilemma of weak signals and organizational futures learning from different angles. In the existing literature there appears to be difference on opinion of the definition of weak signals. The meaning of the concept, weak signals, varies from researcher to researcher, and thus the understanding of weak signals and utilizing them in organization can be challenging. Sometimes weak signals are considered emerging issues or wild cards- some of the researchers consider them as first indication of change. This thesis introduces a new concept the future sign. This represents the holistic picture of future change. The future sign clarifies the discussion by presenting various dimensions of the change; signals, issue and their interpretation. This thesis also assesses the change process (signification process of the future sign), different kinds of signals in it and the role of actors in the change process. One of the outcomes of this assessment is that signals do not always reflect the true state of the emerging issue, which calls for digging into the primary sources of information. This thesis examines also organizational futures learning from different viewpoints, like the sources that are used for finding weak signals and the method for disseminating weak signals within organizations. A study asking “what are futurists’ top sources for finding weak signals” revealed that one’s personal contact network is appreciated the most. A Futures Window, a tool for disseminating weak signals in organization was also tested in this thesis. The study revealed that using visual weak signals in sharing futures information was received well.
Translated title of the contributionWeak signals in organizational futures learning
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Välikangas, Liisa, Supervising Professor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-1022-9
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-1039-7
Publication statusPublished - 2010
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • organization
  • management
  • future
  • forecasts
  • learning
  • organizational learning
  • weak signals


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