For most businesses, environmental scanning can also be very helpful in staying abreast of the latest customer, industry, and societal trends. “Environmental scanning” is a fancy term for the following process:
- Reading a broad cross-section of books and publications of relevance to your business
- Monitoring any other relevant media
- Keeping very close track of the emerging trends by counting the number of times certain ideas, needs, or concepts are referenced
- Seeking to better understand emerging ideas, needs, or concepts— those that are steadily increasing in frequency and intensity
When I worked in Hallmark's Product Discovery & Development division, we had one person who held the title of environmental scanning manager. Her job was to read upwards of 80 different periodicals and produce a report on a different emerging trend each month. Included in her report were implications for Hallmark including new product and service opportunities. She highlighted each trend in a different color and counted the number of times each trend appeared. The periodicals she read varied tremendously from The Economist, Foreign Affairs, Fortune, Forbes, Business Week, Investors Business Daily and The Wall Street Journal to People, Psychology Today, Scientific American, Time, Reader's Digest, Ladies' Home Journal and Cosmopolitan.
Topics that she wrote about included simplifying one's life, seeking experiences rather than things and family/home cocooning.
To see what trends might affect your business today, see Faith Popcorn's 17 Trends That Reveal the Future.