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Harnessing a network of experts for competitive advantage: Technology scouting in the ICT industry


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In order to identify discontinuous technological change and develop appropriate action, companies are increasingly building technology foresight (TF) practices. This paper explores how, using networks of experts, TF capabilities can be built. On the basis of three case studies and 43 interviews, it is shown that building foresight systems through networks of scouts yields several benefits, including the support for sourcing external technologies. Using insights from the three major telecommunication incumbents in Europe, the paper describes and discusses (1) what can be achieved by technology scouting, (2) how a process can be set up, (3) what is important in the design of a scouting network, and (4) the characteristics that should be aimed for when choosing technology scouts. The paper contributes to the methodological base of corporate foresight, to the technology management literature, and to the understanding of how companies can increase their open-innovation capabilities by extending the intertwinement with their environment.
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Harnessing a Network of Experts
for Competitive Advantage:
Technology Scouting in the ICT Industry
René Rohrbeck
Technische Universität Berlin, Chair for Innovation and Technology Management, Straße des 17 Juni 135, 10587 Berlin,
In order to identify discontinuous technological change and develop appropriate action, companies
are increasingly building technology foresight (TF) practices. This paper explores how, using
networks of experts, technology foresight capabilities can be built. On the basis of three case studies
and 43 interviews, it is shown that building foresight systems through networks of scouts yields
several benefits, including the support for sourcing external technologies. Using insights from the
three major telecommunication incumbents in Europe, the paper describes and discusses (1) what
can be achieved by technology scouting, (2) how a process can be set up, (3) what is important in the
design of a scouting network, and (4) the characteristics that should be aimed for when choosing
technology scouts. The paper contributes to the methodological base of corporate foresight, to the
technology management literature, and to the understanding of how companies can increase their
open-innovation capabilities by extending the intertwinement with their environment.
1. Introduction
Technology has been recognized as one of the major
sources of competitive advantage (Edler et al., 2002;
Kocaoglu et al., 2001; Liao, 2005; Phaal et al., 2006).
Large global players such as Siemens and General
Electric were built on technological inventions that have
become break-through innovations. With his invention of
a telegraph, Werner von Siemens, the founder of Siemens,
revolutionized the way in which messages were
transmitted over long distances. Thomas Edison, the
founder of General Electric, invented the light bulb, which
led to the subsequent replacement of candles, gas, and
petroleum as primary sources of light (Fouquet &
Pearson, 2006).
For such companies, the initial invention provided a
temporary monopoly in newly created markets and in
consequence gave them the necessary revenues and time
to establish themselves as global champions. But any
innovation will eventually be commoditized, thus leading
to a loss of the competitive advantage (Christensen &
Raynor, 2003). Therefore, for any technology-based
company, two questions arise:
How can it sustain its technological leadership and thus
its competitiveness?
How can it develop promising new technologies and
use them to move into new business fields?
Research on technological disruptions has also shown
that discontinuous technological changes threaten the
competitive position of incumbent companies, because
they are slower to react than smaller rivals (Arnold, 2003;
Christensen, 1997; Danneels, 2004; Taylor & Helfat,
2009). It also has been shown that being aware of
discontinuous technological change does not ensure that
the company will be able to produce adequate reactions
(Lucas & Goh, 2009; Paap & Katz, 2004). Investigations
of the mortality rate of Fortune 500 companies found that
the average life expectancy of these global champions is
less than 50 years, because of the inability to adapt to
discontinuous change in a timely manner (de Geus, 1997;
Stubbart & Knight, 2006).
In consequence, companies are faced with two
challenges (Levinthal, 1992):
Identifying, anticipating, and assessing discontinuous
Effectively using this information to plan and execute
appropriate reactions
This research aims specifically to extend the
knowledge of how a network of experts can help with the
identification, anticipation, and assessment of
Harnessing a Network of Experts for Competitive Advantage: Technology Scouting in the ICT Industry
Rohrbeck, R
R&D Management, Vol. 40, No. 2
pp. 169-180
This is a preprint. Final article can be found at:
Electronic copy available at:
discontinuous technological change and at the same time
how this same network can support the planning and
execution of appropriate action.
A particularly suitable industry to study such
capabilities is the information and communication
technology (ICT) industry. The telecommunication
operators have been faced with discontinuous change in
several areas and thus have a high perceived need to
develop appropriate approaches to proactively manage
discontinuous change.
Building on case-study data from three
telecommunication operators, this paper describes and
discusses the technology scouting approach of Deutsche
Telekom (Germany) and compares it to the practices of
British Telecom (United Kingdom) and Telefónica
Forty-three interviews were conducted at the three
companies. In order to assess the TF activity as well as its
internal value creation, the informants were chosen to
reflect three distinct perspectives: The internal
stakeholder, reporting on value creation, the activity
responsible, reporting on goals and intertwinement with
other processes, and the foresighters, who were
interviewed about process, methods, and execution of the
TF activity. To further triangulate the data, 13 internal
documents such as foresight reports, process descriptions,
and innovation strategy papers were collected and
2. Brief overview of past research
The importance of conducting technology foresight (TF)
has been expressed by practitioners (Ashton, 1997) as
well as academics (Bodelle & Jablon, 1993; Brenner,
1996). It has been argued that a formal process needs to
be put in place (McDonald & Richardson, 1997; Norling
et al., 2000) and optimal methods should be chosen
depending on the task (Lichtenthaler, 2005; Meade &
Islam, 1998; Porter et al., 2004), size of the company
(Lichtenthaler, 2004; Savioz & Blum, 2002), and the
context, e.g., the industry clock speed and the level of
complexity of the environment (Raymond et al., 2001;
Rohrbeck & Gemuenden, 2008).
Previous work on TF has emphasized its importance
for delivering state-of-the-art products (Bodelle & Jablon,
1993; Carlson, 2004). TF monitors the technological
capabilities of competitors (Brockhoff, 1991), allocates
the R&D budget to the most promising technologies (Yap
& Souder, 1993), maps emerging technologies to products
(Lischka & Gemünden, 2008), assesses and predicts the
performance potential of existing and emerging
technologies (Tschirky, 1994), and supports make-or-buy
decisions (Anderson, 1997).
Less understanding exists on how companies trigger
action after foresight insights have been generated. The
theory of dynamic capabilities suggests that companies
which are faced with disruptions in the environment
(Arnold, 2003; Christensen, 1997) need to adapt their
strategic resources (e.g., their R&D capabilities) to regain
a competitive advantage (Afuah & Utterback, 1997;
Eisenhardt & Martin, 2000; Teece et al., 1997). Thus,
technology foresight should (1) identify needed
capabilities and (2) facilitate their acquisition or
development (Helfat & Peteraf, 2003).
This study builds on dynamic-capability theory and
investigates how technology scouting can help companies
acquire new strategic capabilities, particularly R&D
capabilities and technologies.
3. Defining technology scouting
The technology scout
The technology scout is either an employee of the
company or an external consultant (Dougherty, 1989;
Wolff, 1992). He or she may be assigned part-time or full-
time to the scouting task. The desired characteristics of a
technology scout are similar to the characteristics
associated with the technological gatekeeper (Allen et al.,
1971; Nochur & Allen, 1992). These characteristics
include being a lateral thinker, knowledgeable in science
and technology, respected inside the company, cross-
disciplinary orientated, and imaginative (Wolff, 1992).
Technology scouting
Although various authors use the term technology
scouting as a synonym for TF (Bodelle & Jablon, 1993;
Brenner, 1996; Monteiro, 2006), this paper defines
technology scouting as a systematic approach by
companies whereby they assign part of their staff or
employ external consultants to gather information in the
field of science and technology and through which they
facilitate or execute technology sourcing. Technology
scouting is either directed at a specific technological area
or undirected, identifying relevant developments in
technological white spaces. Technology scouting relies on
formal and informal information sources, including the
personal networks of the scouts.
Figure 1: Contributions of Technology Scouting to Technology Foresight and Technology Management
The two aspects of technology scouting(1)
identification, assessment and usage of information and
(2) sourcing of technologyare shown in Figure 1. The
figure also illustrates the interdependency with both TF
and technology management.
4. Explaining the need for technology
scouting in the ICT industry
A recent past with many technological
The telecommunications industry has been hit by two
major technological disruptions that have resulted in a
high perceived need for TF.
Firstly, the emergence of mobile telephony has
thoroughly transformed the industry. Mobile telephony
became a mass market only 13 years ago. At first the
incumbent operators regarded mobile telephony as a
threat which would take away revenue from the fixed-
line business. When it became clear that mobile
telephony would not go away, most operators quickly
embraced this new market and acquired a strong
position in their home country. Some also used the
opportunity to move to other markets and build up new
networks. Today, counting the number of users, the
mobile telephony market worldwide is more than twice
the size of the fixed-line market.
If the incumbent operators had gone along with their
first reaction and ignored the trend towards mobile
telephony, it is likely that they would not have
The second major disruption is the horizontalization
of service architecture. Services in the
telecommunications industry typically have been highly
integrated vertical silos. To offer voice telephony, it
was necessary to build large networks and complex
switching facilities. Todaywith the emergence of the
Interneteven small software developers, such as
Skype, a voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) provider,
can offer voice calls over the Internet with comparably
negligible investment and operating costs. The network
is free of charge and only the access is billed; the usual
high costs for connecting and billing are executed by a
software application, allowing a practically indefinite
number of users to be provided service with negligible
operating costs.
Fighting the threat of VoIP is relatively easy for
incumbent operators. All they need to do is change their
pricing schemes to flat rates, in which a monthly lump
sum is billed and the calls are then free.
What is not so clear is how to deal with the other
effect of horizontalization: the slow commoditization of
voice and data services. Christensen argues that when a
company’s products are commoditized, the company
should look for de-commoditization in other parts of
the value chain (Christensen & Raynor, 2003). And
indeed, companies offering value-added services, such
as trading sites (e.g., eBay) and device manufacturers
(e.g., Nokia and Apple) can today demand premium
prices in the ICT industry.
Such a recent history of disruptions is the prime
reason why companies in the ICT industry are looking
for new methods of identifying changes early, assessing
them to understand their full implications, and
designing processes to produce effective responses to
Building and using a network of
experts for competitive advantage
Identification, assessment and
usage of information on
technological developments
Acquisition, development,
storage, usage and selling of
Scouts facilitate the sourcing of
Scouts identify and assess new
Supporting Technology
Management with information
about emerging technologies
rising challenges.
A future of increased technological complexity
A second reason for the particularly strong interest in
foresight is the increase in technological complexity in
the ICT industry. Three major factors are responsible
for this increase.
First, the globalization of R&D, in which companies
move R&D activities to other countries (Serapio &
Dalton, 1999) including increasingly strategic R&D
activities (Pearce, 1999). Formerly, all that was needed
to stay up-to-date on technological development was to
observe the triad regions: the United States, Japan, and
Europe. Today there are at least five major regions (the
triad plus China and India) that need to be observed for
breakthrough research and many more for state-of-the-
art development capabilities (von Zedtwitz &
Gassmann, 2002).
Second, the specialization of R&D regions such as
the region of Bangalore, India for software
development, Silicon Valley for services and business
models using information technology and Israel for
Internet security solutions.
Third, the convergence of technologies, which forces
telecommunication companies to build up capabilities
in information technologies. Companies who used to
compete entirely on radio frequency and power-
management technologies now have to master
technologies such as media storage, video streaming,
social media, and identity management. They also need
to become application developers.
As a consequence, telecommunication operators and
their suppliers are unable to build up capabilities in all
relevant technology fields. They increasingly need to
in-source external technologies (Porter & Stern, 2001).
This sourcing of technology can be achieved by joint
research, licensing, buying intellectual property rights
(IPRs), creating joint-ventures, or the outright
acquisition of start-ups (Chatterji, 1996; Gray &
Meister, 2004; Veugelers, 1997).
Specific advantages of scouting
The most widely used TF methods are using automated
search mechanisms to find information in databases.
Such methods include publication and patent analysis
(Daim et al., 2006; Porter, 2005) as well as trend
curves, such as technology lifecycles (Jones et al.,
2001), and the S-curve analysis (Modis, 2007; Phillips,
2007; Sood & Tellis, 2005).
Using such methods in combination with intelligent
data-mining tools (Porter & Cunningham, 2005) makes
is possible to retrieve useful information andprovided
you ask the right questioncan give you appropriate
answers in a timely manner.
What such automated instruments are not capable of
doing is making sense of technological evolution in its
early stages. Initially, technologies are often developed
with different names in parallel and cannot be found by
automated searches. In addition, early technology-
development projects need a technological expert to
judge their potential value for different applications,
because it is usually the case that no market data are
available at that moment.
To overcome these limitations, national foresight
exercises in particular made use of the Delphi method
(Landeta, 2006; Ronde, 2003; Rowe et al., 2005). This
method is based on expert opinions that are collected
and in multiple iterative rounds consolidated to form
In the corporate context, these two groups of
methodsautomated data mining and expert
interviewshave three major limitations:
Firstly, they do not involve the internal
stakeholders (e.g., the product managers or the
R&D project managers), and thus produce results
with little internal acceptance.
Secondly, there is a time lag between the initial
technological development and its detection by the
TF method. In database search, a lag of at least 12
to 18 months should be expected, because of
publication and patenting processes (Lichtenthaler,
Thirdly, there is no link established to the source of
the technological information. For a TF insight
with strategic relevance, further interaction with
the information is typically needed. For a
promising emerging technology, the company
needs to be able to get into direct contact with the
technology developer and source the technology.
For these three reasons, Deutsche Telekom has
established a TF system that is based on a worldwide
network of technology scouts. These scouts search for
relevant technological information and discuss them
proactively with internal stakeholders.
Integrating internal stakeholders increases
acceptance of the gathered intelligence, reduces the
time lag between initial development and detection by
the TF system, and allows facilitating discussions with
the source of the technological information and the in-
sourcing of the technology.
5. Technology scouting at Deutsche
In a broader sense, the goal of technology scouting is to
gain a competitive advantage by identifying
opportunities and threats arising from technological
developments at an early stage and to provide the
technological capabilities needed to face these
More specifically, the technology scouting
approachcalled technology radar’—has four major
Early identification of technologies, technological
trends and technological shocks
Raising awareness of the threats and opportunities
of technological development
Stimulation of innovation by combining the
technology reports with business potential
Facilitation of the sourcing of external
technologies by allowing for a direct channel
through the network of technology scouts to their
sources of information
The process at Deutsche Telekom’s technology radar
consists of four stages, shown in Figure 2.
In the identification phase, a network of technology
scouts is used to access sources of information on
technological developments in industry and academia.
For technologies with potential relevance, a short
description is prepared, including technology
assessment, research status, and business potential. This
summary is sent to the technology exploration unit of
Deutsche Telekom.
The selection phase consists of two separate
screening steps. In the first step, the technologies are
selected according to their degree of external novelty
and the newness to Deutsche Telekom. A second step
ensures that the technology is not yet being assessed
elsewhere at Deutsche Telekom.
Figure 2: Technology Radar Process
In the assessment phase, the technologies are ranked
according to two criteria: ‘market potential’ (with the
underlying factors ‘potential market size, cost
savings’ and disruptive potential’) and ‘technological
realization complexity’ (with the underlying factors
complexity, implementation risk’ anddevelopment
costs’). The ranking is done in a workshop with
technology scouts, internal stakeholders, and the
technology foresight team from corporate R&D, which
publishes the technology radar. In this workshop, all
scouts participate in all technology ratings, ensuring
that cross-technological enabling characteristics of a
technology are detected and broader technological
trends are identified.
In the dissemination phase, the technologies are
described in atechnology one-pager’, which includes a
description, latest developments, research status, and a
discussion of the business potential.
In the knowledge transfer, four mechanisms are used
to promote communication between the internal
stakeholders, the scouts, and the source of the
technological information:
Firstly, the scouts’ names and contact details are
listed in the technology one-pagers’.
Secondly, workshops with R&D and product
managers are used to discuss the findings of the
scouting network and kick-off projects.
Thirdly, different follow-up options are offered,
including in-depth workshops with the sources of
the technological insights, in depth reports on
certain technological trends, and consulting by the
A matching of the technology radar findings with
the current R&D activities. A gap analysis
identifies and triggers new R&D projects.
Central visualization of findings
To provide convenient access to the scouting results
and to promote the usage of the technologies central
visualization is used. This radar screen provides
metadata on the technologies along three dimensions
(see Figure 3):
The maturity of the technologies, which is divided
into five levels: ‘basic research’, ‘applied
research’, ‘product concept’, ‘market ready’ and
‘market presence’. The maturity is visualized as
concentric circles and makes it possible to browse
for technologies that may be introduced in the next
generation of products.
The technological area, which at Deutsche
Telekom is structured along its value chain and
includes the areas ‘fixed and mobile devices’,
‘access network’, ‘core network’, ‘network
CTOs and CMOs
R&D and
Product Managers
Selection AssessmentIdentification
Scout Network
uses sources in
university & industry
services’, ‘end-user services’, and ‘cross-
functional. In the radar, it is visualized as a
segment of the circle.
The need for awareness, which has a three-level
rating scale: high, medium, and low. It is illustrated
with different symbols and colours to enable
efficient identification of the most relevant
Figure 3: Central Visualization: the Technology Radar Screen
In the case studies, the internal stakeholders have
repeatedly emphasized the importance of the radar
screen. It has been praised for its intuitive usage, the
depth of information (maturity level, technology area,
and relevance) and the ability to provide an overview of
approximately 60 technologies. It was described as the
primary appeal for top management, which is keen on
being able to process much information with few
Structure of the scouting network
The structure of the scouting network of Deutsche
Telekom follows three major principles:
Involve scouts with a large formal and informal
Ensure a strong linkage between the scouts.
Promote the connection between scouts and
internal stakeholders.
Facilitate communication between external expert
and internal stakeholder.
The resulting structure is shown in Figure 4 (the
figure illustrates only the structure of, and not the actual
numbers of actors in, the scouting network).
Figure 4: Structure of Scouting Network
What can be observed is that each scout has several
sources of information (external experts). A typical
scout would have around 10 major sources and more
minor ones, which he or she uses only occasionally.
These sources are from industry and academia. Some
scouts may focus exclusively on one of the two
RelevanceMaturity level Technology area
Information flow Internal stakeholder Sources Scout Scouts (internal/ external)
domains, but most have contacts in both.
These sources can be connected formally, through
for example communities of practice, or informally,
through personal ties. In both cases, the scout should be
able to gather information about technological advances
much earlier than the foresighters working with
information from databases.
In addition, the information gathered by a scout is
typically very rich. The richness, it was observed, was
particularly valuable. For example, an academic
researcher may provide an estimate about when the
technology will be market-ready or what
interdependencies to other technologies need to be
monitored. He or she may also provide insights into
potential application fields, thereby supplying new
product ideas to Deutsche Telekom.
Another way to look at the scouting network is
through the relationships and interests of the actors. It
has been emphasized that understanding the interests of
the various stakeholders and developing mechanisms
which provide these benefits are crucial to the success
of the approach. As the manager of the technology
foresight activity pointed out, ‘Money-for-information
is not sufficient to ensure the success of a scouting
Figure 5: Actors, Their Relationships, and Their Interests
The scouting network of Deutsche Telekom consists of
four major actors: (1) the internal stakeholders, such as
R&D project managers and strategic planning, (2) the
technology foresight team, (3) the technology scouts,
who can be internal or external, and (4) the experts, or
sources of information whom the technology scouts
approach (see Figure 5).
Among these actors, four major relationships or
exchange interfaces exist. It can be assumed that in
order to be stable and successful, a scouting network
needs to ensure that all exchanges are satisfactory to the
actors involved.
In the first exchange, the internal stakeholders
receive the technological information which should
lead to action, meaning that it should be in the
language of the internal stakeholders and fit into
their decision or work process. If satisfied with the
information, the internal stakeholders will agree to
the budget of the foresight activity and ensure its
In the second exchange, the technology scouts
provide descriptions on emerging technologies in
exchange for direct payment, feedback on the
technology, and recognition from the company.
Internal scouts are remunerated either through their
work contract or as part of their bonus scheme.
External scouts are generally paid directly.
In the third exchange, the experts from industry
and academia provide information on their ongoing
research in exchange for contacts into DT. These
contacts are of value because they yield the
potential to start joint research activities or gain
access to empirical data for the research.
Whereas the first three exchanges are needed to
allow the scouting network to function, the fourth
is the most important one and is needed to stabilize
the scouting network and make it succeed in the
long run. In this exchange, the experts provide to
the internal stakeholders additional information
and transfer know-how in order to turn
technological insights into applied technologies
and successful projects. In exchange, internal
stakeholders provide funding for joint research
It is particularly the fourth exchange which will decide
the fate of the scouting network. It is also the exchange
where the most money is involved. This is because the
internal stakeholders are prepared to spend only a
limited amount of money on technological insights, but
much more for technological knowledge, which can be
utilized directly in new product development. It is
therefore this exchange which should be tracked to
monitor the success of the overall scouting network.
foresight team Experts
(Information sources)
Payment/ feedback
stakeholders Technology
Technology descriptionsActionable information Information on research
Contacts to DTAgrees to bu dget of
foresight team
Additional information and know how transfer
Funding for joint research projects
Typology of scouts
In past research, different recommendations have been
made on who should be hired as a technology scout.
Wolff has proposed that the ideal scout is an internal
employee who works full time (Wolff, 1992).
Dougherty, in contrast, sees the technology scout rather
as a well-known expert, who is hired by different
companies as a consultant (Dougherty, 1989). The
older concept of a technological gatekeeper also
emphasizes the usage of internal personnel to channel
information into the company (Allen et al., 1971;
Taylor, 1975).
All authors name a variety of different advantages
and disadvantages to support their recommendation.
The bottom line seems to be that internal full-time
employees are superior in the dissemination of
information and better suited to identify technologies
with high relevance for the information, while external
consultants are better at identifying technological
developments in white spaces, have larger networks,
and may have more in-depth expert knowledge.
In both cases, the respondents emphasized that the
knowledge about the company and its priorities is
important to the success of the foresight activity. One
internal stakeholder explained that ‘each scout has to be
able to not only to understand the technology, but he
also needs to be an expert in the innovation priorities of
the company’s business lines.
Therefore, even if external consultants are used, it is
important to ensure that sufficient knowledge about the
company and its internal requirements and priorities is
available to the scouts.
Figure 6: Typology of Scouts
When categorizing the scouts of Deutsche Telekom
in internal/external and full-time/part-time, we see that
the portfolio of scouts is balanced in both dimensions
(see Figure 6). Although counting the number of
technological findings, there is a slight emphasis on the
internal scouts.
Following the argument of Wolff and Dougherty, it
can be expected that the scouting network of Deutsche
Telekom should deliver information that is both
relevant and sufficiently focused on white spaces, i.e.,
on solutions from outside the current technology
6. Cross-case comparison
In comparing British Telecom (BT), Telefónica, and
Deutsche Telekom (DT), it is surprising that all three
companies chose to build their foresight practice on the
basis of scouts. Even more unexpected was the finding
that the configuration of the scouting practices have
much in common.
All companies confirmed that they were following
three primary goals:
early identification of emerging technologies (with
a particular focus on technologies with disruptive
stimulating innovation
supporting the sourcing of technologies
BT reported the additional aim of continuously
challenging their R&D departments with insights from
foresight in order to ensure that their new product
Full-time Part-time
Silicon Valley
Annotation: The size o f the b ubbles rep resents roughly the numb er of techno logical findings from the d ifferent sco uts
Deutsche Telekom Group External
T-Labs Berlin
Deutsche Telekom
developments are state-of-the-art. DT added that they
aim also to trigger more discussion on technological
change and raise awareness about emerging
Concerning the process, that of DT was the most
structured and formalized. The process of Telefónica
was also well-structured and in addition had a direct
process link to R&D and innovation management. BT
had the least structured process but the most interaction
with its internal stakeholders. The communication of
insights at BT was done primarily through workshops
with R&D or with product management from the
operational units.
Another commonality is that they all had a central
visualization for the presentation of findings, but all
three companies used different frameworks. DT used
the radar screen, as described above. BT uses a timeline
which is structured in different technology areas.
Telefónica uses an architecture overview which has
similar technological areas as in the radar screen used
by DT but lacks the maturity dimension. One important
commonality between the visualization frameworks is
that technological areas can be matched with an internal
manager. This ensures that a top manager who reads the
TF report can find for each emerging technology a
person who would be responsible for developing that
specific technology.
Concerning the structure of the scouting network, the
commonality is that all companies aimed at achieving a
global reach for their foresight activity. In so doing,
they all extended their foresight activity to countries
outside the usual triad of the United States, Europe, and
Japan, adding countries such as India, China, South
Korea, and Brazil.
Major differences existed in the typology of scout.
Whereas DT has a balanced portfolio along the two
dimensions, BT and Telefónica are using primarily
internal staff. The primary reasons given are the
perceived importance for confidentiality and the need to
employ scouts with a strong knowledge about the
technological needs of the company.
7. Conclusion
From the case studies, it can be concluded that in the
ICT industry the use of people and their personal
networks for technology foresight (technology
scouting) is well-established. This has been attributed
to the specific advantages of technology scouting: (1)
fast discovery of emerging technologies, (2) robustness
of approach when faced with changing terminologies,
(3) richness of information on emerging technologies,
and (4) the support for technologies from external
The fourth advantage drew much commentary, being
identified as particularly important. If a company can
build strong relationships between the external experts
(who aim to acquire research funding) and the internal
stakeholders (who aim to source superior technologies),
than it will also achieve increase its technological
Through the in-depth case study at DT, it has also
been possible to illuminate the way in which a large
multinational company operationalized the technology
foresight task. This made it possible to describe and
discuss in detail (1) what can be achieved by
technology scouting, (2) how a process can be set up,
(3) what is important in the design of a scouting
network, and (4) which characteristics should be aimed
for when choosing the technology scouts.
The cross-case analysis made it possible to increase
the generalizability of the findings, showing that in one
industry companies have independently chosen a
similar setup for their foresight system. The comparison
also revealed that the usual triad (the United States,
Europe, and Japan) has been extended by all companies
to include China and India.
By providing insights into the move towards people-
based foresight systems in the ICT industry, this study
can be considered a basis for further research on
technology foresight and innovation management. By
showing that technology scouting can support the
sourcing of technology, this research also adds to the
literature on open innovation (Chesbrough, 2003;
Gassmann, 2006; Rohrbeck et al., 2009). Building on
networks of technology scouts should increase the
company’s intertwinement with its environment and
increase its openness to potential collaboration partners
(Ritter & Gemunden, 2003).
There are great opportunities for further research,
particularly in the relationship between different
foresight approaches and the openness of a company.
Moreover, it would be interesting to empirically test
how foresight is conducted in different industries in
order to provide better recommendations on how to
configure a foresight system. The task of anticipating
discontinuous change is not one in which the sole focus
can be on technology. It would, therefore, also be
interesting to investigate the way in which technology
scouting can be combined with foresight in the
consumer, political, and competitive environment,
within the larger framework of corporate foresight
(Becker, 2002; Daheim & Uerz, 2008; Rohrbeck &
Gemuenden, 2008) and how it can be combined with
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... The search for start-ups is located in the very early phase of alliance formation (Gulati, 1998;Kale and Singh, 2009). A first encounter between the sourcing -González et al. (2015) and Leiponen and Helfat (2010) Scientific conferences/ publications Visits to scientific conferences, reviewing publications Cruz-González et al. (2015) and Leiponen and Helfat (2010) Trade fairs/exhibitions Visits to trade fairs and exhibitions Cruz-González et al. (2015) and Leiponen and Helfat (2010) Self-organised pitch events Organising start-up events with open registration or professional search and pre-selection Homfeldt et al. (2017Homfeldt et al. ( , 2019 and Weiblen and Chesbrough (2015) Fund of funds Investment in VC funds managed by external VCs External scouting partner Scouting by external service providers Rohrbeck (2010) Scouting satellite Scouting department located in start-up "hot-spots" Networking with business partners ...
... Another approach is investing in funds that allow the firm that is willing to invest to participate in the deal flow of venture capitalists (VCs) . Moreover, the identification of start-ups can be actively managed with the support of external scouting partners (Rohrbeck, 2010) or scouting satellites, which describe scouting departments located in start-up "hot-spots" . Apart from actively managed identification practices, the literature highlights networks of business partners (e.g., VCs or consulting firms), universities, and even nonpartnering firms (e.g., competitors) as sources for identifying start-ups without actively searching (Cruz-González et al., 2015;Cunningham and Menter, 2021;Leiponen and Helfat, 2010;. ...
Start-ups are an important source of novel knowledge and product ideas for incumbents. We investigate which search strategies are positively related to the successful search for start-ups. We identify search instruments and their various uses: intensive or broad; stand-alone or combinatory. Finding 11 search practices in the literature, we evaluate how these practices were used by 97 respondents from a cross-industry and cross-national sample. Our results show that searching broadly and intensively is positively related to a successful search for start-ups and to firms’ radical innovation capability. Specific tools that are positively related to search success are online contacts, desk research, external scouting partners, and start-up pitch events. Decision tree analysis provides effective combinations of search practices that innovation managers and purchasing managers can use. Employing these search practice combinations, we make incumbents aware of the routines used in distant knowledge search. These practices are dynamic capabilities that help them to remain successful in high-velocity markets. In identifying these search practices, we contribute to the literature on innovation routines and dynamic capability research.
... After analyzing the situation of the Colombian ict sector, its increased technological complexity can be determined by the following three main factors (Rohrbeck, 2010): ...
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Due to the rapid and constant changes in the market, organizations are increasingly forced to develop innovative products or services with added value. In Colombia, a large percentage of information and communications technology (ict) firms concentrate in the city of Medellín. For these organizations, developing and implementing innovation capabilities (ics) is considered strategic and essential to strengthen their competitiveness and the economic contribution of the ict sector to the city and the country, which is reflected in the national gdp. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to analyze the variables that lead to the identification and incorporation of ics by firms in the ict sector through a systematic literature review (slr) in the 6 most relevant bibliographic databases. The results obtained were used for the analysis of the ict sector in Medellín. According to our findings, firms must possess the necessary innovation capabilities and competencies to develop skills and knowledge oriented to research and development and to be competitive in the market, considering the transformations of the industry. In addition, identifying and incorporating ics into their organizational structures allow them to improve decision-making and create strategies that contribute to strengthening their innovation activity and competitive advantage.
... Moreover, firms may need to engage in an external technology scouting for the first time during the inbound open innovation generation phase. For example, firms that engage in technology scanning and the identification of appropriate existing or emerging technologies from extramural actors may discover technological trends and opportunities [23], [24] for formulating the further innovation strategies. Specifically, the focus of a firm's technology scouting determines its search and capture strategy, which in turn affects the inbound open innovation generation. ...
... The field has many crosslinkages to external knowledge search and ecosystem research [33], [98]- [100]. Accordingly, the field offers several beneficial insights that interact with strategic foresight, for example, how to leverage external sources and networks for innovation, and identify promising inbound and outbound knowledge flows [101]- [103]. ...
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Strategic foresight activities in both research and practice aim to identify superior courses of action in situations of future uncertainty and change. While the field has existed for more than 70 years and has its own concepts and methodologies, over time it has incorporated and used many of the theories and methods found in cognate fields, particularly in strategy and innovation management. The reverse is also true as these various areas of study have begun to adopt the frameworks of a maturing foresight field. However, these interfaces are frequently encapsulated and restrained by paradigmatic rigidity. The objective of this article is to raise awareness and build bridges across these parallel but often unconnected fields of research endeavor. In particular, we review traces of foresight in cognate literatures and highlight "forward-looking search" as a promising way to formulate a joint conversation. The papers of the IEEE-TEMS special issue on foresight in strategy and innovation management are introduced, with their particular contributions that echo our call to build bridges across closely associated fields.
... A majority of business organisations managers lack strategic insights and flexibility to encounter uncertainty, which in turn, making difficult to achieve business goals and causes a massive financial shortage and going to be insolvent (Arokodare & Asikhia, 2020). Lacking the ability to perceive changes such as increasing technology development, consumer demands, accelerating innovation pace leads an organisation to misunderstand those items (Rohrbeck, 2010). In addition, digital transformations undoubtedly affect the whole market and enterprises on an international scale. ...
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Digital transformation and its unpredictable nature make future studies to be of paramount importance for dealing with a crisis and identifying market trends and opportunities existing in new markets. Moreover, future studies guarantee enterprises to develop accurate models toward their perspective and distinguish enterprises from their competitors. This study presents a strategic future study in entrepreneurial resiliency considering digital development trends in emerging markets. To do so, the researchers used the Delphi technique. The findings reveal that fifteen driving forces which panel experts suggested are effective in this regard. Artificial intelligence, data mining, environmental scanning, business circumstances prediction, and property research were of paramount importance among these forces. The paper concludes with some directions for future research and suggestions for policymakers and practitioners. Resumen: La transformación digital y su naturaleza impredecible hacen que la investigación futura sea de suma importancia para identificar las tendencias y oportunidades en mercados existentes y emergentes. Además, los estudios futuros garantizan que las empresas desarrollen modelos precisos con respecto a su perspectiva y logren distinguirse de sus competidores. Este artículo presenta un estudio estratégico de cara al futuro en resiliencia empresarial considerando las tendencias de desarrollo digital en mercados emergentes. Para ello, se utiliza la técnica Delphi. Los hallazgos revelan quince fuerzas impulsoras sugeridas por el panel de expertos. La inteligencia artificial, la minería de datos, el escaneo ambiental, la predicción de circunstancias comerciales y la investigación de propiedades fueron de suma importancia entre estas fuerzas. El documento concluye con algunas recomendaciones para futuras investigaciones y sugerencias para legisladores y profesionales. Palabras clave: estudios estratégicos futuros, resiliencia empresarial, desarrollo digital, mercados emergentes, emprendimiento.
... However, there is agreement among the different views that technology search is a behavioral process based on a technical perspective to solve technical problems or find new opportunities for an uncertain future by sourcing innovative knowledge inside and outside an organization to achieve innovation goals. Examples include Cruz-González et al. (2015); Lichtenthaler (2011);Rohrbeck (2010); Tan et al. (2020) etc. ...
Based on the knowledge-based view, we conceptualize the technology search of high-tech manufacturing firms into three dimensions, namely search breadth, search depth, and balanced search, and construct the functional paths of the relationships between the different technology search dimensions and innovation quality of high-tech manufacturing firms. Grounded in absorptive capacity theory, we analyze how such relationships will change with the absorptive capacity level. Using data from China's high-tech manufacturing industry from 2009 to 2017, we construct a panel data model to test the moderating effect of absorptive capacity on such relationships. Our research findings suggest: (i) Technology search breadth and depth each have a significant, inverted U-shaped relationship with innovation quality, i.e., technology search breadth and depth have an optimal point, and innovation quality exhibits an initial increasing and then decreasing trend. (ii) Balanced search has a significant positive relationship with innovation quality, i.e., there is a balanced point between technology search breadth and depth, and the higher the balance point is, the higher is innovation quality. (iii)Absorptive capacity does not merely positively moderate the relationship between technology search and innovation quality, but has different moderating effects under different search levels.
... To achieve that diversity, various internal and external actors and experts are integrated into foresight processes (Andersen, Jørgensen, Lading, & Rasmussen, 2004;Boe-Lillegraven & Monterde, 2015;van der Meulen, Wilt, & Rutten, 2003;Rohrbeck, 2010). This kind of diversity is particularly important for projects that require new perspectives, diverse knowledge, and new ways of doing things (Gruber & Venter, 2006;Heger & Boman, 2015). ...
Since banks are competing in challenging and dynamic market environments, an anticipatory system generating futures-relevant knowledge is of primordial importance for an effective bank strategy. The objective of this research is to investigate how corporate foresight and competitive intelligence, considered as parts of an anticipatory system, create knowledge. Our main contribution lies in arriving at a better understanding of these processes in the mainstream of knowledge creation grounded in the SECI model. To this end, we followed a longitudinal case-study methodology for more than eight months within a leading bank in Morocco. The findings show that while the competitive intelligence unit focuses more on commercial and competitor intelligence targeting hence other banks market strategies, the corporate foresight unit tries to identify the bank market weak signals and major trends in the banking sector. Knowledge creation is mainly triggered in the social interaction context in the competitive intelligence unit, while the externalization phase involving interacting Bas is critical to knowledge creation in the corporate foresight unit. The results also confirm the presence of a black hole strategy problem and a lack of coordination between competitive intelligence and corporate foresight processes, thus highlighting the need for dynamic integrated anticipatory systems.
Despite the pivotal role that product innovation plays in competitive success, few companies have developed a distinctive organizational capability in identifying, creating and exploiting innovation opportunities systematically. Why are some companies constantly more innovative than others? What capabilities need to be fostered to make innovation management effective?
This paper focuses on dynamic capabilities and, more generally, the resource‐based view of the firm. We argue that dynamic capabilities are a set of specific and identifiable processes such as product development, strategic decision making, and alliancing. They are neither vague nor tautological. Although dynamic capabilities are idiosyncratic in their details and path dependent in their emergence, they have significant commonalities across firms (popularly termed ‘best practice’). This suggests that they are more homogeneous, fungible, equifinal, and substitutable than is usually assumed. In moderately dynamic markets, dynamic capabilities resemble the traditional conception of routines. They are detailed, analytic, stable processes with predictable outcomes. In contrast, in high‐velocity markets, they are simple, highly experiential and fragile processes with unpredictable outcomes. Finally, well‐known learning mechanisms guide the evolution of dynamic capabilities. In moderately dynamic markets, the evolutionary emphasis is on variation. In high‐velocity markets, it is on selection. At the level of RBV, we conclude that traditional RBV misidentifies the locus of long‐term competitive advantage in dynamic markets, overemphasizes the strategic logic of leverage, and reaches a boundary condition in high‐velocity markets. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
An international company must be active in science and technology scouting, not only in its home country but also in other industrialized nations. Elf Aquitaine set up a scouting system, at the corporate level, to lead coordinated actions on behalf of all of the divisions and at their request. The successes achieved (notwithstanding certain failures) demonstrate that such a system requires time and patience, and that the most effective technology transfer operations are often those that involve a transfer of personnel.
Organizations in today's hypercompetitive world face the paradoxical challenges of “dualism,” that is, functioning efficiently today while innovating effectively for tomorrow. Corporations, no matter how they are structured, must manage both sets of concerns simultaneously. To do this, organizations have to understand and learn to manage the dynamics of innovation that underlie both disruptive and sustaining innovations. Most analyses have been flawed by giving too little weight to the interactions between needs and technologies. Based on a dynamic model of these interactions, three distinct patterns of substitution are identified that illustrate how these two forces intersect.
This paper focuses on dynamic capabilities and, more generally, the resource-based view of the firm. We argue that dynamic capabilities are a set of specific and identifiable processes such as product development, strategic decision making, and alliancing. They are neither vague nor tautological. Although dynamic capabilities are idiosyncratic in their details and path dependent in their emergence, they have significant commonalities across firms (popularly termed ‘best practice’). This suggests that they are more homogeneous, fungible, equifinal, and substitutable than is usually assumed. In moderately dynamic markets, dynamic capabilities resemble the traditional conception of routines. They are detailed, analytic, stable processes with predictable outcomes. In contrast, in high-velocity markets, they are simple, highly experiential and fragile processes with unpredictable outcomes. Finally, well-known learning mechanisms guide the evolution of dynamic capabilities. In moderately dynamic markets, the evolutionary emphasis is on variation. In high-velocity markets, it is on selection. At the level of RBV, we conclude that traditional RBV misidentifies the locus of long-term competitive advantage in dynamic markets, overemphasizes the strategic logic of leverage, and reaches a boundary condition in high-velocity markets. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
This article introduces the concept of the capability lifecycle (CLC), which articulates general patterns and paths in the evolution of organizational capabilities over time. The capability lifecycle provides a structure for a more comprehensive approach to dynamic resource-based theory. The analysis incorporates the founding, development, and maturity of capabilities in a manner that helps to explain the sources of heterogeneity in organizational capabilities. In addition, the analysis includes the "branching" of an original capability into several possible altered forms.
Conference Paper
This paper focuses on dynamic capabilities and, more generally, the resource-based view of the firm. We argue that dynamic capabilities are a set of specific and identifiable processes such as product development, strategic decision making, and alliancing. They are neither vague nor tautological. Although dynamic capabilities are idiosyncratic in their details and path dependent in their emergence, they have significant commonalities across firms (popularly termed 'best practice'). This suggests that they are more homogeneous, fungible, equifinal and substitutable than is usually assumed. In moderately dynamic markets, dynamic capabilities resemble the traditional conception of routines. They are detailed, analytic stable processes with predictable outcomes. In contrast, in high-velocity markets, they are simple, highly experiential and fragile processes with unpredictable outcomes. Finally, well-known learning mechanisms guide the evolution of dynamic capabilities. In moderately dynamic markets, the evolutionary emphasis is on variation. In high-velocity markets, it is on selection. At the level of REV, we conclude that traditional REV misidentifies the locus of long-term competitive advantage in dynamic markers, overemphasizes the strategic logic of leverage, and reaches a boundary condition in high-velocity markets. Copyright (C) 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Using material from surveys of multinational enterprise (MNE) production subsidiaries and laboratories operating in the UK, the paper seeks to discern vital changes in the roles of such R&D facilities. From the primarily tactical and technologically dependent role of adapting established group products for the local market these labs now take more committed positions in support of their group's strategic competitiveness. This can involve a much more profound involvement in original product development, or inputs into programmes of pre-competitive (basic or applied) research to support the longer term evolution of the core technology of the MNE group. It is suggested that this evolution of decentralised labs' positioning in MNE knowledge strategies implies (i) an increasing involvement in product development rather than adaptation, (ii) an interdependent rather than dependent position in group technology programmes, (iii) increased relevance of supply side influences (host country technology competencies, capacities and heritage), (iv) decline of centralising forces on R&D (e.g., economies of scale, communication and co-ordination problems, concerns of knowledge security).