Environmental Scanning:
Acquisition and Use of Information by Managers

Chun Wei Choo & Ethel Auster
Faculty of Library & Information Science
University of Toronto

Book chapter in the Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, edited by Martha E. Williams, Vol. 28, published by Learned Information Inc (1993). [PDF]


Information is central to every facet of managerial work. A large part of the manager's information comes from or concerns the environment external to the organization. Managers use this information to respond to external change by planning and designing courses of action that shape the future of the organization. This acquisition and use of environmental information, known as environmental scanning, is a form of information seeking that is practised by all managers. As the first ARIST chapter on environmental scanning, this review includes relevant literature from organization theory and information needs and uses in order to show the relationships between research on scanning and these broader disciplines. After an introduction on environmental scanning, we review organization theories that analyse organizations and their environments, and that treat organizations as information processing systems. Next we look at selected studies on information needs and uses. We follow this with a discussion of research on managers as information users that combines elements from organization theory and information needs and uses studies. This leads logically to research that investigates environmental scanning, and here we survey studies from 1967 to 1992. We conclude with a synthesis of the principal findings of the research thus far.