Even highly skilled and intelligent leaders aren’t good at detecting changes in their environment that might affect strategy. When you are focusing on all of the moving parts of your business, you can be blinded to these important changes.  In psychology, this is known as inattentional bias, which typically happens because we are all overloaded with stimuli, and it is impossible to pay attention to everything in one's environment. To be adaptive to change, you need to be attuned to these signals.  Not only that, you need to be able to determine which of those are transient and which are permanent; which of them are opportunities and which of them are threats.

Taking time to specifically look for and codify those things that are happening inside and outside the organisation is called environment scanning.  It’s a critical step in strategic workforce planning (or, for that matter, any kind of strategic planning) and the basis of your future scenarios.

The video below is incredibly instructive in showing the importance of Environment Scanning to counteract the phenomenon of inattentional bias:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJG698U2Mvo?feature=player_detailpage]

What are the invisible signals that could disrupt your strategy?  Are you being proactive about looking for them, or are you running the risk of being hostage to them?  As Edward de Bono said, "You can analyse the past, but you need to design the future... that is the difference between suffering the future and enjoying it".  Environment Scanning gives you the foresight to design your future.

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