A few weeks ago, I gave a talk to a group of association executives on environmental scanning. My proposed title for the talk was "Environmental Scanning 2.0," by which I wanted to reflect the potential and power we have in harnessing new tools and the network to make envirobmental scanning much more effective. My host urged me to use a title clearer to my audience, so we went with "Technology, Members, and Effective Environmental Scanning." In my view and based on comments I got, the talk went very well. My audience had thoughtful questions. Most of them said they did not currently do environmental scanning, but I think that reflected their assumption that that would entail a somewhat formal process culminating in a report, called "environmental scan." I advocated, as I have here on foresightculture.com, for making scanning a daily, continuous habit, a part of building a culture of foresight. I told them about online tools they can use, such as RSS feeds and iGoogle to organize and "push" information to themselves. I urged them to tap the available technologies such as listservs, GoogleGroups, Facebook, etc. to create sharing and collaborative space for the results of scanning. I also urged them to shop carefully among the sources of information and the tools for accessing and sharing it, and to make sure what they set out to do was going to work for their specific constituencies and situations. Throughout our discussion lingered the question: "Isn’t this just one more task to add to our over-burdened lives?" I tried to show how doing scanning differently could help the cause of busy executives trying to be effective. Inevitably, however, each of those in attendance will have to decide how important new insights on change and better readiness for dealing with emerging issues and opportunities is to them and their team. The value of scanning has to outweigh the added burden. By making scanning a part of the fabric of each day, it’s my hope people can avoid adding it as a task. I try to be sure to show people how more important than adding new sources information to what they see is attaching meaning to it-meaning for them in their organizations. I hope my group from that Friday’s meeting arrived at that thought, and understood that new efforts and a clearer focus on how to fit scanning into their work is worth it.
Update: Please see also this special page on environmental scanning.