<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://px.ads.linkedin.com/collect/?pid=266564&amp;fmt=gif">

4 Ways Environmental Scanning Helps You Design Your Innovation Playground

Litha Sokutu
Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Innovation strategies have evolved from a nice-to-have to an imperative for businesses.

New players entering an industry, changing consumer tastes, or political movements necessitate that companies have one eye on the present and another on how future scenarios may play out. This way, businesses not only understand potential disruptive changes but are ready to respond to them.

An innovation model should cover all aspects from strategy to execution, and the innovation blueprint should empower an organization to have a single point of truth for all their innovation activities. This allows innovation architects to clearly define goals, see which stakeholders are needed, and create a structured approach to the innovation journey.

In this article, we take a step back and take a closer look at environmental scanning and why it is a key consideration for any organization that takes innovation seriously. By reiterating its importance as a critical starting point to developing a company’s foresight & strategy capabilities, we look at how environmental scanning matters, and what capabilities are needed to effectively understand - and respond to - your changing business landscape. 

The Bigger Picture: COFIM as the Fundamental Innovation Framework

The Control Objectives for Innovation Management Framework (COFIM) is a model which aims to define what capabilities are required in your innovation journey. Utilized by companies across sectors with proven results, COFIM helps businesses understand where to play in their given field, how to win, as well as how to execute their innovation objectives.

The first element - "where to play," is a critical component of developing foresight and strategy through realistic scenario planning. By understanding emerging players in one’s field, shifts in other business environments, and competitor behavior, businesses can anticipate forces of change and determine which opportunity areas they can target with the most efficacy. 

Having the capacity to scan the core and peripheral landscape consistently comprehensively is the first of the 20 steps in the COFIM framework.

The Best Innovation Management Process

4 Reasons why Environmental Scanning is Vital to your Innovation Journey

    1. Environmental scanning is a sense-making activity.

      The scanning process helps businesses take masses of information and sift through data such that only what is relevant to one’s business objectives remains. Additionally, environmental scanning in the context of the COFIM model helps businesses to detect the signals which are most pertinent to their business needs, thereby identifying actionable opportunity spaces.

    2. Environmental scanning helps build a solid and sustainable knowledge base.

      Environmental scanning pushes companies to develop the habit of consistent landscape and situational analysis. At ITONICS we have built a knowledge management system as part of our innovation software, that merges the expertise of different sources, collecting weak signals and connecting these signals to one another. We believe that continually building a database of rigorous market research is imperative to creating strategy and foresight capabilities rooted in the latest industry trends.

      Download Toolkit Foresight & Strategy in Innovation Management

    3. Environmental scanning allows for clearer signals and clearer strategic focus.

      By developing a deep understanding of the impacts of the different signals, environmental scanning helps businesses determine the implications of these signals to their strategic direction, thereby sharpening their focus. An effective environmental scan prods companies to ask questions such as “What projects should be stopped?” or “Are there any start-ups that we could acquire to drive our strategic objectives?” This clarity empowers organizations to develop innovation roadmaps that reflect external industry phenomena as well as internal capabilities.

    4. Environmental scanning empowers leaders to take decisive action. Environmental scanning enables leadership to effectively respond to changes in the marketplace, leading the charge from a place of confidence instead of uncertainty. The benefits of a thorough environmental scan do not end here; having a defined picture of the future, clear strategic goals, and a well-communicated innovation roadmap can galvanize everyone from the C-Suite Executive to the intern. The Cisco Innovate Everywhere Challenge, supported by the ITONICS platform, is a prime example of how building foresight and innovation capabilities can empower everyone in the organization to participate in the innovation process.

Building your Environmental Scanning Capacity with ITONICS Insights


At ITONICS, we believe our Insights tool optimizes the Environmental Scanning process by using machine intelligence to scan millions of verified sources, enabling innovation teams to detect weak signals easier and quicker. 

ITONICS Insights incorporates natural language processing (NLP) technology, scanning millions of news feeds, research papers and patent data for relevant keywords, coherently organizing data using our custom tagging feature. For teams wanting a granular understanding of where the weak signals are coming from and which sector they predominate, ITONICS Insights can segment information by geography and industry. In this way, the ITONICS Insights tool relieves innovation departments of the strenuous, time-consuming process of manual data mining but instead empowers innovation practitioners to prioritize what they do best: find the magic. 

Here’s a three-step approach that teams can use to better augment their Environmental Scanning ability:

Building Environmental Scanning Capacities

  • Develop clear scanning anchors: These are the key issues that will inform your data gathering and market research process. The scanning anchors you use will ultimately inform your strategic plan and need to be clearly understood by all stakeholders participating in the strategy and foresight development process.

  • Frame the work: Using analytical models such STEEP (Social, Technology, Economy, Environment, Politics) or PESTLE (Politics, Economics, Social, Technological, Legal, Environment) provides you with an ideal starting point for your scanning activities. By having a comprehensive view of the different factors that may influence your strategic operations, you can build a more realistic picture of the future.

  • Harness the power of collective buy-in: Innovation teams must not work in silos. Inviting other employees from the beginning is vital to not miss any critical perspectives or phenomena in the embryonic stage of your innovation journey.
Learn more about how to turn trends into opportunities for your business: In our Foresight & Strategy Toolkit you get a holistic overview of the strategic foresight process and learn best practices in innovation management.

PDF - Toolkit Foresight & Strategy

Have more Time?


The ITONICS Innovation Software helps organizations to take their innovation management to the next level. If you want to learn more, visit our product overview or get a free trial of our software.

You May Also Like

These Stories on Trend Management

Join 12,000+ other Innovation Rockstars!
Get monthly innovation insights, best practices & tools straight to your inbox