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How to scan your environment

Scanning the environment
Learning unit number one, topic two, scanning the environment. One of the best fundamental and important starting points for understanding the future, and analyzing the future is understanding the environments in which we operate. Now, there are actually a number of environments. We could talk about a very narrow environment, Namely, the organisation. There we have a great degree of control and influence. We can also talk about the environment of stakeholders. There, we can have limited influence and limited control. But the really important one, the one I want to talk about now, is the much broader, what we call contextual environment. We have come across the notion of a contextual environment. In week number one, we spoke about systems thinking.
And I showed you a picture, a diagram, of the interaction between the world of economics, the world of politics, the world of technology, et cetera. And that is a typical framework which we could use to scan the environment. Scanning the environment simply means zooming into each one of those areas and gaining more understanding, more knowledge about what’s happening there. So we zoom in and we tease out some of the trends that are emerging there. We base some of this on history. We look at historical trends. We look at current developments.
And from there, as I say, we get a better understanding of world the economics, all that that entails, the world of politics, all that that entails, the world of technology, the world of social influences, and the world of natural resources. So as I say, part and parcel, fundamental to gaining a better understanding and using other tools is understanding the world in which we live, gaining more knowledge about all these factors. And it’s a tall order. Each one of these areas entails a great deal. We think about economics, we have to start by having a world view. As we have already discovered in the last couple of weeks, events in China have a very real influence on Africa, on South Africa.
We have to have a regional view, in other words, in our case, a view of Africa, what’s happening there. And then naturally, the domestic South African view. Each one of those elements needs a great deal of probing, and investigation. As we also saw when looking at systems thinking, because you recognize the fact they all interlink with one another as well. So to summarize, scanning the environment often forms the foundation, the basis of a further exploration and investigation into potential emerging trends.
In week number three and week number four, the focus will be on understanding the world. In a very real sense, we should indeed be zooming in to various aspects of the environment. So week number three, we’ll look at various global economic and political trends, and week number 4, various social and technological trends. And this is essentially scanning the environment.
One of the fundamental starting points in understanding and analyzing the future is to understand the environment in which we operate.
After watching the video, identify a complex environment within your organisation. Discuss the elements that are impacted by this environment.
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