Environmental Scanning

Assessing an organisation’s external, dynamic and sometimes complex environment in terms of its competitive and entrepreneurial (or strategic) behaviour, combined with its political, economic and ecological, social and technological influences (see also PEST Analysis). The external environment consists of all conditions and forces which affect the strategic options and operational activities of the organisation (Ansoff, Declerck & Hayes 1976; Burmeister, Neef & Beyers 2004; Christensen 1997; Day & Schoemaker 2005, 2007; Fink, Schlake & Siebe 2001; Georgantzas & Acar 1995; Gilad 2004; Hamel & Prahalad 1994; Ringland 1998; Stoffels 1994; Van der Heijden 1996).


A quantitative approach to generating knowledge about the future (e.g. projections). Past developments are extended into the future using certain assumptions regarding the extrapolation of trends (in contrast to Foresight) (Godet 1987; Ringland 1998; Tsoukas & Shepherd 2004).


Research undertaken as part of an organisation’s medium to long-term (five to twenty years) strategy development to better get to know the future, with the goal of transforming the challenges of the future into opportunities and therefore increasing the overall learning and innovation capacities of the organisation. Foresight reflects a qualitative approach to capturing the future (in contrast to Forecasting) (Albers & Broux 1999; Burmeister, Neef & Beyers 2004; Chia 2004; Hamel & Prahalad 1994; Marsh, McAllum & Purcell 2002).


The future (or multiple futures to acknowledge multiple potential outcomes) lies ahead of us and contains environmental uncertainty which organisations try to understand and plan for (Lindgren & Bandhold 2003; Ringland 1998).

Future Screening

A sub-process in a contemporary approach to business strategy development during which strategic conversations would be held, based on long-term scenarios built by combining strong and weak signals. It is seen as a prerequisite for the situation analysis and strategy formulation steps. This sub-process fosters strategic thinking and makes companies aware of discontinuities. It should stimulate companies to look beyond a three or five year planning horizon in strategy development, to strengthen innovation capabilities, take better advantage of opportunities and defend against threats in the long-run (Peter 2011).


A science which tries to develop an understanding of the future and learn what causes change in the PEST environment (Bell 1997; Schwartz 1996).

Innovation Management

The management of new ideas and the creation of something new that has significant value to the organisation or industry. It requires certain processes and techniques, and an organisational culture which supports innovation (Afuah 1998; Bryan 2002; Christensen & Raynor 2003; De Geus 1999; Fagerberg et al. 2006; Igartua, Garrigós & Hervas-Oliver 2010; Pohl 2009).

PEST Analysis

A classification scheme in order to analyse the political (P), economic and ecological (E), social (S) and technological (T) influences of an organisation’s external environment (see also Environmental Scanning) (Ansoff 1976; Burt et al. 2006; Cady 2006; Day & Schoemaker 2006; Farjoun 2002; Frost 2003; Kotler et al. 2004; Smits, van der Poel & Ribbers 1999; Stoffels 1994).

Risk Management

The discipline of assessing strategic and operational risk and developing strategies to manage these external (and internal) risk factors (Aven & Renn 2009; Caragata 1999; Gilad 2004; MacCrimmon & Wehrung 1986).


A story or model of an expected or supposed image of the future, including assumed drivers and events, built through the application of a number of methodologies. Scenarios are based on findings from environmental scanning activities designed to gather data about future developments (Bell 1997; Porter 1985; Ringland 1998, 2010; Schoemaker 2002; Van der Heijden 1996; Van der Merve 2007).

Strategic Surprise

An event of great strategic relevance that suddenly and unexpectedly arrives and creates new issues for which the organisation has no immediate response strategy. As immediate action is required, the issue cannot always be handled by normal systems and processes (also know as wildcards or critical events) (Ansoff 1984; Day & Schoemaker 2007; Glassey 2009).

Strong Signals

Generally recognised trends or assumptions (e.g. demographic changes or the growing influence of e-business), which can be connected with an industry or market. These issues are visible and relatively concrete, allowing an organisation to estimate their impact and create response plans. Most planning approaches/techniques focus on strong signals (see also Weak Signals) (Ansoff 1975, 1982, 1984; Bell 2003; Collis 2008; Fink, Schlake & Siebe 2001; Harris & Zeisler 2002; Marsh, McAllum & Purcell 2002; Ofek 2010; Wack 1985a).

Weak Signals

The smallest accessible data elements in environmental scanning which may be seen a source of disruption in strategic planning. Weak signals are poorly understood drivers of change and/or signals which are currently unconnected with a trend, industry or market. They include opportunities and threats and will develop over time. Consequently, their identification and correct interpretation can be vital to the success or survival of an organisation (see also Strong Signals) (Ansoff 1975, 1982, 1984; Day & Schoemaker 2005; Huber, Jungmeister & Zahld 2007; Liebl 1996; Marsh, McAllum & Purcell 2002; Martinet 2010).

Share this page: