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The road ahead for research on Strategic Foresight: Insights from the 1 st European Conference on Strategic Foresight

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Multinational companies are increasingly exploring new methods and tools to identify disruptions in the environment and are using this information for competitive advantage. The European Conference on Strategic Foresight is a forum of professionals for benchmarking and advancing Strategic Foresight practices. This paper summarizes the results of the 1 st European Conference on Strategic foresight held in December 2007 in Berlin, Germany. Three major outcomes can be highlighted: Firstly the participants proposed a mission, goals and a modus operati for future conferences. Secondly they identified "barriers" and "promotion mechanisms" for Corporate Foresight. And thirdly the practitioners identified 8 topics for further advancement of Corporate Foresight practices and they can be used by researchers to direct and focus their research activities.
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1st European Conference on Strategic Foresight, Berlin, Germany, Dec 13th-14th, 2007
The road ahead for research on Strategic Foresight:
Insights from the 1st European Conference on
Strategic Foresight
René Rohrbeck
Technische Universität Berlin, An-Institut Deutsche Telekom
Laboratories, Ernst-Reuter-Platz 7, 10587 Berlin, Germany.
E-mail: rene.rohrbeck@telekom.de
Hans Georg Gemünden
Technische Universität Berlin, Chair for Innovation and Technology
Management, Straße des 17. Juni 135, 10623 Berlin, Germany.
E-mail: hans.gemuenden@tim.tu-berlin.de
Abstract: Multinational companies are increasingly exploring new methods
and tools to identify disruptions in the environment and are using this
information for competitive advantage. The European Conference on Strategic
Foresight is a forum of professionals for benchmarking and advancing Strategic
Foresight practices.
This paper summarizes the results of the 1st European Conference on Strategic
foresight held in December 2007 in Berlin, Germany. Three major outcomes
can be highlighted: Firstly the participants proposed a mission, goals and a
modus operati for future conferences. Secondly they identified „barriers‟ and
„promotion mechanisms‟ for Corporate Foresight. And thirdly the practitioners
identified 8 topics for further advancement of Corporate Foresight practices and
they can be used by researchers to direct and focus their research activities.
Keywords: strategic foresight, consumer foresight, technology foresight,
technology intelligence, market foresight, trend analysis, future studies, future
analysis.
1 Introduction
As new technologies, new services and new consumer trends emerged, companies in
many industries have to watch their profits erode and their entire business models
become threatened [1]. In order to identify early disruptions in the environment [2] and to
use this information for competitive advantage, companies are developing new methods
and management tools [3]. These have become known as Strategic Foresight capabilities.
They aim at creating an early-warning system for disruptions and a consistent forward
view for their business environment [4].
The European Conference on Strategic Foresight was founded as a platform for
Strategic Foresight professionals. The aim is to establish a community of practice that
advances both the methods and tools and their implementation. The first conference was
The road ahead for research on strategic foresight: Insights from the 1st European conference on Strategic Foresight
Rohrbeck, R., H. G. Gemünden
1st European Conference on Strategic Foresight; 2007; Berlin, Germany
pg.10
The road ahead for research on Strategic Foresight 2
held in December 2007 in Berlin, Germany with the participation of 12 multinational
companies as well as selected academics. The conference was structured as 6 company
presentations, 1 academic presentation and 2 workshop sessions. In addition a brown
paper was used to capture important topics throughout the conference. Participants had
the opportunity to propose such topics and rate their relevance.
This paper summarises the discussion in the workshops and presents the results that
have been captured on flip charts and the brown paper. The paper addresses both
Strategic Foresight practitioners and scholars. Of most use for practitioners is the section
2 where barriers and promotion mechanisms for Strategic Foresight are discussed. In
section 3 and 4 scholars will find research topics and a roadmap for research in the field
of „innovation agility‟ of which Strategic Foresight represents one part. Also mostly of
interest to Strategic Foresight professionals is section 5 where we discuss based on the
suggestions captured within the conference the future of the European Conference on
Strategic Foresight.
2 Barriers and promotion mechanisms
Corporate Strategic Foresight today is characterized by a large gap between its perceived
importance and its role within the strategic and innovation management [5]. In order to
identify reasons for the lack of usage of Strategic Foresight tools and to identify ideas on
how to increase its implementation, we dedicated the first workshop to barriers and
promotion mechanisms.
The workshop was organized as a collective brainstorming session which was
captured on flip charts and a subsequent discussion of the identified barriers and
promotion mechanisms. After the conference we classified both into the categories
cultural, institutional and operational aspects, following the classification of Cyert and
Goodman, which was introduced for university-industry collaboration barriers [6]. The
classification seems useful to better match the barriers and the promotion mechanisms.
Barriers
In total 9 barriers have been identified from which 2 have been classified as cultural, 5 as
institutional and 2 as operational (see table 1).
The cultural barriers Top management not serious about using future insights and
No inclination/motivation to think about the future imply that managers today are
neither externally nor intrinsically motivated to think about the future. In the workshop,
this was contributed partly to existing budgeting and reward systems (see also
institutional barriers), and partly to corporate culture.
The institutional barriers reflect limitations in controlling practices (Current
controlling systems), reward systems (No incentive to think about the future) and career
systems (Reward and career system that is hostile to foresight). In the discussion it was
emphasized that the career and reward systems that are based on team and budget size are
hostile to corporate flexibility and therefore also hostile to foresight. A team leader whose
activity would become obsolete or might be subject to downsizing will gladly ignore or
discourage foresight activities in order to keep his entire team and maintain his career
level.
1st European Conference on Strategic Foresight, Dec 13th-14th, 2007 3
Similar reactions can be expected when new opportunities are identified through
foresight as the new business creation typically means a redistribution of the available
resources, i.e. the downsizing of current activities. In this case the current business
leaders will be more inclined to prevent the opportunity than to embrace it and will be
again rather hostile to foresight.
Table 1 Barriers of Strategic Foresight
Cultural barriers
Top management not serious about using future insights
No inclination/motivation to think about the future
Institutional barriers
Hierarchy prevents horizontal/ vertical dialogue
No incentive to think about the future
Reward and career system that is hostile to foresight (e.g. Hay Consultants system)
Limited attention of internal stakeholders
Current controlling systems
Operational barriers
Frequent positions changes of supporting internal stakeholders (e.g. CEO, CFO)
Lack of resources
Source: Collected from participants in the workshop sessions.
The operational barriers Frequent positions changes of supporting internal stakeholders
and lack of resources should in theory be the easiest to overcome. In practice the frequent
position changes especially in senior positions have become reality in most industries
and it is difficult to see a mechanism for overcoming these.
Promotion mechanisms
The first interesting aspect in the brainstorming session for promotion mechanisms is the
absence of any mechanisms on the cultural level. In total 10 mechanisms have been
identified of which 7 have been categorized on the institutional level and 3 on the
operational level (see table 2).
On the institutional level the design and use of a performance indicator was
discussed as a key element to further promote Strategic Foresight. It was regarded firstly
as an essential element to argue for budget, secondly it is expected to make the value
contribution of Strategic Foresight activities more transparent and, thirdly and maybe
most importantly, it could make it possible to link “thinking about the future” to the
reward system, both for the Strategic Foresight responsible and for the internal
customers.
Along that line of argument the performance indicator would help to change the
reward system, make the CFO’s strategist your ally, (because its performance would be
The road ahead for research on Strategic Foresight 4
measurable) and eventually enhance the success of a changed budget system. One
participant even raised the idea of changing the management system from a budgeting
system to a system based on roadmapping.
Promoting Strategic Foresight by making it a means to increase collaboration with
external partners was also seen as an interesting possibility. The involvement and
integration of external partners and building of collaborative visions with engaged
partners was seen as especially successful if it was executed as a cross-industry exercise.
Table 2 Promotion mechanisms for Strategic Foresight
Institutional promotion mechanisms
Design and use a performance indicator
Make the CFO‟s strategists your ally
Involve and integrate with external partners
Build collaborative visions with engaged partners
Change reward systems
Change budget system
Propose SF methods to manage the company (e.g. Roadmapping)
Operational barriers
Use alternative formats for insight communication (podcasts, videos, …)
Bring top management to customer
Mirror organization against competitors
Source: Collected from participants in the workshop sessions.
On the operational level, three promotion mechanisms were identified: Firstly was the
use of alternative formats for insight communication, such as podcasts and videos.
Participants reported the successful use of podcasts to catch the CTOs attention for future
topics. Secondly it was proposed to confront top management with “real” customers to
give them the possibility to challenge their basic assumptions as well as their visions for
the future. And thirdly, foresight initiatives were believed to be especially useful and well
regarded if they are capable of mirroring the organization against competitors. It was
suggested, that the best way to win over product management about foresight is to be able
to present them insight about roadmaps or visions of their competitors.
3 Future topics for research
Topic relevance matrix
During the two-day conference the 12 participating companies also had the opportunity to
propose topics that should be further researched and developed. These topics were
written down and positioned on the topic relevance matrix. The matrix had two
dimensions which were used to rate the topics: On the first axis the expected future
importance of the topic and on the second axis today‟s capability level. The relevance for
1st European Conference on Strategic Foresight, Dec 13th-14th, 2007 5
future research and development is then derived through the positioning in the matrix,
according to the rating on the axis.
In total 18 notes were collected and clustered, resulting in 8 topics. The clustering
was done by integration of aspects which were addressing the same topic or closely
related topics. The rating in the matrix was done by taking the average scores of the
integrated notes. The result is depicted in figure 1.
Figure 1 Topic relevance matrix
Source: Collected throughout the conference and clustered by authors.
From the 8 topics 2 have been rated as high, 5 as medium and 1 as low relevance.
Although the relevance rating should be considered with care because of the limited
sample size the 8 identified topics are interesting leads for further research.
Particular interesting is that facilitation of new business creation […by Strategic
Foresight…] was awarded such a high relevance. This could also indicate that spotting
new opportunities is perceived as more important than the identification of threats.
The high rating of customer foresight tools, such as lead user studies, or socio-
cultural trend, could suggest that technology foresight has been well developed and
implemented and that now customer foresight is the major evolutionary step for most
corporate foresight systems.
In the medium relevance range new communication formats to create emotional
appeal and the incentive systems for fostering internal and external participation address
the challenge to make more use of the insights gathered by foresight activities. All
participating companies agreed that it is not the lack of good insight but the lack of
insight usage that prevents thinking about the future.
Topics 5 to 7 all address the same general theme of collaborative foresight. The
integration of different actors in the insight identification, assessment and interpretation is
believed to improve both reliability and credibility. Credibility as it is perceived by the
internal stakeholder is believed to be another crucial factor for the impact of Strategic
Foresight.
+
+
-
-
High
High
Low
LowCapabilities
Future Importance
+
+
-
-
High
High
Low
LowCapabilities
Future Importance
High
relevance
Low
relevance
Medium
relevance
High
relevance
Low
relevance
Medium
relevance
Topic relevance matrix
Topics have been identified by the participants and clustered Topics
in descending relevance
Relevance
Customer
foresight tools
7
Market place for
insights
Cross-industry
collaboration
Facilitation of new
business creation
Incentive systems for
fostering internal and
external participation
New communication
formats to create
emotional appeal
University-industry
collaboration
2
6
1
4
5
3
Fostering regional
development
across-companies
8
Facilitation of new
business creation
Customer foresight tools
High
Medium
New communication
formats to create
emotional appeal
Incentive systems for
fostering internal and
external participation
Cross-industry
collaboration
Market place for insights
University-industry
collaboration
Fostering regional
development across-
companies (e.g. EU)
Low
Facilitation of new
business creation
Customer foresight tools
High
Medium
New communication
formats to create
emotional appeal
Incentive systems for
fostering internal and
external participation
Cross-industry
collaboration
Market place for insights
University-industry
collaboration
Fostering regional
development across-
companies (e.g. EU)
Low
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
The road ahead for research on Strategic Foresight 6
While most companies perceive their capability of interacting with university or
industry partners as high, they still feel the need to keep improving. This is largely
attributed to increased competition for the attention of universities, as an increasing
number of companies are starting to recognize universities as a valuable source for
future-oriented information. In that respect the market place for insights could offer some
scalability for interaction effort while reducing the effort on the side of the sources.
4 Ongoing and planned research activities
Research at the chair for Innovation and Technology Management
Concerning the above identified topics for further research we would like to point out
some completed and ongoing research activities at our chair for Innovation and
Technology Management of the Technische Universität Berlin (see figure 2).
Concerning the facilitation of new business creation a recent publication compared
the spin-out activities of Cisco and Deutsche Telekom. The focus of this paper was to
compare the so-called spin-along activities of the two companies. In the so-called spin-
along a research project is commercialized as a spin-out but monitored closely by the
parental company. It is then spun back in if the company is successful and if their product
has a good fit with the product portfolio of the parental company [7].
Figure 2 Research in identified topics
Source: Own figure based on topic relevance matrix and research projects at the
chair of Innovation and Technology Management of the Technische Universität
Berlin
Another completed research activity in the field of University-Industry Collaboration
analysed University-Industry Research Center (UIRC). This research was aimed at
identifying mechanisms used by UIRC to enhance the collaborations between industry
and universities compared to traditional project-based or contractual collaborations. For
Titel Research project/ paper title Status and TargetTitel Research project/ paper title Status and Target
Facilitation of new business
creation
Combining spin-out and spin-in activities - the spin-along
approach
Conference Paper
2007 ISPIM Conference:
"Innovation for Growth"
PublicationPublication Running projectRunning project ConceptConcept IdeaIdea
Scientific results:
Customer foresight tools Harness the creativity of your customers: How multinational
companies integrate their customers in NPD
Running
(Expected completion date:
July 31st, 2008)
1
2
Incentive systems for fostering
internal and external participation Incentives and reward systems for corporate foresight Running
(Expected completion date:
September 15th, 2008)
4
University-industry collaboration Making university-industry collaboration work - a case study
on the Deutsche Telekom Laboratories
Conference Paper
ISPIM 2006 Conference:
Networks for Innovation
Cross-industry collaboration
Using the creativity thousands of researchers and developers:
How Deutsche Telekom creates an open innovation
ecosystem
Running
(Expected completion date:
June 15th, 2008)
5
7
1st European Conference on Strategic Foresight, Dec 13th-14th, 2007 7
this a case study was conducted on Deutsche Telekom Laboratories, an institute
consisting of 4 University Chairs 70-plus researchers, 30 Deutsche Telekom employees
and another 200-plus researchers staffed on demand on the development projects [8].
In the fields of customer foresight tools, incentive systems for fostering internal and
external participation and cross-industry collaboration research activities are running
that should be completed prior to the next European Conference on Strategic Foresight.
Research roadmap for innovation agility
Strategic Foresight also strongly relates to the concept of innovation agility, which aims
at increasing the capability of large multinational companies (MNC) to successfully
compete against smaller rivals, who are faster and more flexible. In this concept Strategic
Foresight tools contribute to agility by gathering information, directly triggering new
business creation and facilitating open innovation.
Figure 3 shows a draft for a research roadmap for Strategic Foresight within the
concept of innovation agility. The roadmap is proposed as a means to coordinate
management needs for new tools with research activities in Strategic Foresight research.
These two perspectives are subdivided into two levels which are differentiated in terms of
impact.
Figure 3 Research Roadmap for innovation agility
Source: Own figure
The perspective of management needs is dominated by the need for tools, which yield a
competitive advantage. Eventually research and the implementation of new management
tools might also lead to a paradigm change. In our case we believe that the advances in
Strategic Foresight in combination with new business creation and open innovation could
enable large companies to compete with the innovation agility of smaller rivals. Today
large companies believe they can succeed without being fast or having a consistent
forward view.
MNC are large enough to
succeed commercially without
being fast and having a
consistent forward view
MNC use a set of Strategic
Foresight tools to improve
innovation agility and out-
compete smaller rivals
Management
needs
Research
activities
Underlying
paradigms
Tools
Applicable
knowledge
Fundamental
understanding
20102007 2008 2009 2011 201220102007 2008 2009 2011 2012
Limits to corporate
foresight
Technology
Scouting
Strategic Foresight
in MNC
University Industry
Research Centre
Technology
Radar
Spin-along
approach
Barriers to
innovation in MNC
Barriers and limitations
to open innovation
Virtual customer integration in
the innovation process
Incentives and reward systems for
corporate foresight
Strategic Foresight
tools 1.0 Strategic Foresight
tools 2.0
Strategic
backcasting
MNC = Multinational companies
PublicationPublication Running projectRunning project ConceptConcept IdeaIdea
Ready Under development Planned
Scientific results:
Management tools:
Underlined Titles = are downloadable publications
Open Innovation
ecosystems in MNC
The road ahead for research on Strategic Foresight 8
Within the research activities we differentiate applicable knowledge and fundamental
understanding. We believe that management research can lead to applicable knowledge
by studying companies and deriving best practices or by reflecting their management
techniques in the context of other industries. This would be the direct path from research
to management-tool development, where case-study research is a prominent research
method. The indirect way starts with researching to create fundamental understanding of
certain phenomenon. Such research is based on methods such as laboratory experiments,
large-scale quantitative research and multivariate statistical analysis. Such research
results have then typically to be transferred through research on applicable knowledge in
order to be applied in management practice.
Both types of research should aim ultimately to help managers run their companies
better and more successfully. Therefore the roadmap is used to synchronize the research
efforts and management needs. The roadmap implies coordination across the different
levels.
5 The road ahead for the European Conference on Strategic Foresight
Towards the end of the conference the participants discussed the future of the European
Conference on Strategic Foresight. The results are summarized in figure 4.
Figure 4 Suggestions for further development of the European Conference on Strategic Foresight
Source: Collected and clustered from participants in the closing session of the
conference
The major outcome was the request to keep the conference as a platform for exchange
among Strategic Foresight professionals and not broaden the scope towards including an
equal number of academics. It was also encouraged to use the conference to start a
community of practice on strategic foresight.
In addition the participants proposed 7 concrete goals that should guide the efforts of
the community of practice and the annual European Conferences on Strategic Foresight:
1st European Conference on Strategic Foresight, Dec 13th-14th, 2007 9
Identify and develop collaborative foresight tools in order to facilitate the cross-
industry collaboration and the university-industry collaboration. Such tools could
also include IT platforms that can be used as market places for insights into the
future.
Foster a foresight-friendly culture and engage people to think about the future.
Identify and develop centralized foresight tools which facilitate strategic discussions
with multiple internal stakeholders, which allow the collaborative assessment and
interpretation of insights and blends in the knowledge management of the company.
Influence education of young people to include foresight, innovation and
entrepreneurship topics. The participants felt the need to push for an integration of
foresight, innovation management and entrepreneurship topics in university
curricula. Such an initiative that should be supported is the development of a
European Master Program on the topics Foresight, Creativity, Entrepreneurship and
Innovation Management1.
Increase usage of sophisticated tools in companies by increasing the knowledge base
and sharing experience on successful implementation of such methods.
Increase the scanning reach of foresight in companies by sharing experience on
efficient sourcing of information and effective communication methods for internal
dissemination of insights.
Identify mechanisms to persuade management to identify and challenge the basic
assumptions in their work by using provocative communication tools as well as
databases with predictions on the development of different trends that might
challenge these assumptions.
6 Conclusion
This paper aims at summarizing the results of the 1st European Conference on Strategic
Foresight. In conclusion the conference can be judged as successful in three ways: Firstly
it established a mission, goals and a modus operati for the future exchange and
collaborative learning among Strategic Foresight professionals. Secondly it identified
„barriers‟ and „promotion mechanisms‟ for Corporate Foresight. And thirdly, it gave
directions to scholars in the field of Strategic Foresight by providing a list of 8 relevant
research topics.
We hope that these three results will contribute to advancing the field of Strategic
Foresight in practice and in research.
1 This Masters program is developed jointly by the University of Potsdam, Chair of Prof. Dr. Guido Reger,
University of Malta, University of Teesside, UK, and the University of Turku, Finland
The road ahead for research on Strategic Foresight 10
7 Acknowledgements
We would like to thank all the participants of the 1st European Conference on Strategic
Foresight for their valuable contribution. Only by your active and enthusiastic
participation was this conference made such a great success.
Thanks go to Dr. Heinrich Arnold (Deutsche Telekom Laboratories), Dr. Andreas
Bong (Hilti), David Brown (British Telecom), Jeff Butler (R&D Management Journal),
Roger Deckers (Continental), Michael Dunaj (Deutsche Telekom Laboratories), Georg
Friedrichs (Vattenfall Europe), Dr. Ruud Gal (Philips), Nico Haarländer (Vattenfall
Europe), Dr. Anette Hilbert (VDI/VDE IT), Dr. Michael Jackson (ShapingTomorrow),
Ralf Kloss (Autovision GmbH Volkswagen Group), Stefan Liske (PCH Berlin Los
Angeles GmbH), Dana Mietzner (University of Potsdam), Prof. Dr. Guido Reger
(University of Potsdam), Martin Schlicksbier (Telekom Austria), Dr. Oliver Weinmann
(Vattenfall Europe AG).
8 References and Notes
1. Christensen, C.M. and M. Overdorf (2000) Meeting the challenge of disruptive change,
Harvard Business Review, Vol. 78, No. 2, pp. 66-76.
2. Day, G.S. and P.J.H. Schoemaker (2005) Scanning the periphery, Harvard Business
Review, Vol. 83, No. 11, pp. 135-148.
3. Schwarz, J.O. Assessing the future of futures studies in management, Futures, Vol. In
Press, Corrected Proof, No., pp. 10.
4. Slaughter, R. (2004) Futures beyond dystopia: creating social foresight, London ; New
York: RoutledgeFalmer.
5. Krystek, U. (2007) Strategische Frühaufklärung, Zeitschrift für Controlling &
Management, Vol. 2007, No. Sonderheft 2, pp. 50-58.
6. Cyert, R.M. and P.S. Goodman (1997) Creating effective university-industry alliances:
An organizational learning perspective, Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 25, No. 4, pp. 45-
57.
7. Rohrbeck, R., M. Döhler, and H.M. Arnold (2007) Combining spin-out and spin-in
activities the spin-along approach, ISPIM 2007 Conference: "Innovation for Growth:
The Challenges for East & West", Warsaw, Poland: International Society for Professional
Innovation Management (ISPIM).
8. Rohrbeck, R. and H.M. Arnold (2006) Making university-industry collaboration work a
case study on the Deutsche Telekom Laboratories contrasted with findings in literature,
ISPIM 2006 Conference: "Networks for Innovation", Athens, Greece: International
Society for Professional Innovation Management (ISPIM).
... The coordination of numerous participants – oftentimes geographically dispersed – means the foresight process becomes a complex and time-consuming undertaking [2]. In their summary of the first European conference on strategic foresight held in December 2007 in Berlin, Germany, Rohrbeck and Gemünden [41] identified the need to develop collaborative foresight tools as a fundamental need in facilitating collaboration between different stakeholders. These tools should allow experts to collaboratively discuss, assess and interpret foresight activity results [41]. ...
... In their summary of the first European conference on strategic foresight held in December 2007 in Berlin, Germany, Rohrbeck and Gemünden [41] identified the need to develop collaborative foresight tools as a fundamental need in facilitating collaboration between different stakeholders. These tools should allow experts to collaboratively discuss, assess and interpret foresight activity results [41]. The evolution of information and communication technologies such as e-mail, World Wide Web and videoconference has made it also feasible to support foresight activities via the Internet [9]. ...
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Only by your active and enthusiastic participation was this conference made such a great success
  • David Brown
We would like to thank all the participants of the 1st European Conference on Strategic Foresight for their valuable contribution. Only by your active and enthusiastic participation was this conference made such a great success. Thanks go to Dr. Heinrich Arnold (Deutsche Telekom Laboratories), Dr. Andreas Bong (Hilti), David Brown (British Telecom), Jeff Butler (R&D Management Journal), Roger Deckers (Continental), Michael Dunaj (Deutsche Telekom Laboratories), Georg Friedrichs (Vattenfall Europe), Dr. Ruud Gal (Philips), Nico Haarländer (Vattenfall Europe), Dr. Anette Hilbert (VDI/VDE IT), Dr. Michael Jackson (ShapingTomorrow), Ralf Kloss (Autovision GmbH -Volkswagen Group), Stefan Liske (PCH Berlin -Los Angeles GmbH), Dana Mietzner (University of Potsdam), Prof. Dr. Guido Reger (University of Potsdam), Martin Schlicksbier (Telekom Austria), Dr. Oliver Weinmann (Vattenfall Europe AG).