Corporate Foresight and Dynamic Capabilities:
An Exploratory Study
Lisa-Marie Semke and Victor Tiberius *
Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences, University of Potsdam, 14482 Potsdam, Germany;
Received: 5 May 2020; Accepted: 22 May 2020; Published: 1 June 2020
Firms engage in forecasting and foresight activities to predict the future or explore possible
future states of the business environment in order to pre-empt and shape it (corporate foresight).
Similarly, the dynamic capabilities approach addresses relevant ﬁrm capabilities to adapt to fast
change in an environment that threatens a ﬁrm’s competitiveness and survival. However, despite
these conceptual similarities, their relationship remains opaque. To close this gap, we conduct
qualitative interviews with foresight experts as an exploratory study. Our results show that foresight
and dynamic capabilities aim at an organizational renewal to meet future challenges. Foresight can
be regarded as a speciﬁc activity that corresponds with the sensing process of dynamic capabilities.
The experts disagree about the relationship between foresight and sensing and see no direct links
with transformation. However, foresight can better inform post-sensing activities and, therefore,
indirectly contribute to the adequate reconﬁguration of the resource base, an increased innovativeness,
and ﬁrm performance.
Keywords: corporate foresight; dynamic capabilities; forecasting; Germany
Firms are competing in a so-called VUCA business environment which is characterized by high
degrees of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity [
] as well as hypercompetition
Discontinuities caused by the omnipresent digitization in most industries [
] but also by
unforeseeable events such as the COVID-19 crisis [
] challenge ﬁrms existentially. Adapting
to these changing conditions by being agile determines the success of the company [15,16].
Several management concepts provide speciﬁc lenses, tools, and techniques which can help ﬁrms
survive and better perform under such conditions. Among them, two predominant ones are corporate
foresight (CF) and the dynamic capability (DC) approach. CF explores possible future scenarios to cope
with uncertainty [
]. In that sense, it exceeds forecasting activities which usually aim at predicting
the most probable future [
]. Such strategic intelligence is the basis for informed decision making and
increased innovativeness [
] to create a competitive advantage [
] and increase proﬁtability [
Similarly, DCs address the temporality of competitive advantages based on an outdating resource
base that has to be renewed permanently [
]. More generally, DCs are a ﬁrm’s capabilities to adapt to
a changing business environment in order to renew competitive advantages [27–29].
While considerable research has been carried out on both concepts, the joint analysis of CF and DC
is under-explored. Despite the obvious similarities in the problems they address and in their general
logic, the two concepts surprisingly seem to remain almost separated in scholarly literature. Hardly
any scientiﬁc paper mentions both concepts simultaneously. As an exception, Heger and Boman argue
that the DC approach and CF have in common that they try to incorporate external sources [
though the authors integrate both concepts, they do not provide a systematic analysis of how both
Forecasting 2020,2, 180–193; doi:10.3390/forecast2020010 www.mdpi.com/journal/forecasting
concepts are related. Rhisiart et al. ﬁnd that a ﬁrm’s engagement in scenario planning can strengthen
parts of DCs . Fergnani argues that CF is a future-oriented ﬁrm capability which can enhance the
DC framework [
]. Schwarz et al. conceptualize corporate foresight trainings as a microfoundation
of dynamic capabilities [
]. Haarhaus and Liening consider foresight as an important antecedent of
ﬁrms’ dynamic capabilities, fostering strategic ﬂexibility and decision rationality .
Therefore, systematic research on the relationships between CF and DCs is scarce. We address
this research gap with our exploratory study that aims at a better understanding of the links between
both concepts, by conducting qualitative interviews with foresight experts. In the absence of prior
empirical research, we chose a qualitative research design to generate propositions rather than testing
Our results show that both concepts aim at an organization’s renewal to meet future challenges.
CF can be regarded as a speciﬁc activity that corresponds with the sensing process of DCs. The experts
disagree about the relationship between CF and seizing and see no direct links between CF
and transformation. However, CF can better inform post-sensing DC activities and, therefore,
indirectly contribute to the adequate reconﬁguration of the resource base, an increased innovativeness,
and ﬁrm performance.
Our ﬁndings contribute to both CF and DC research by linking both ﬁelds and deepening the
understanding of their relationships. DC research can beneﬁt from the in-depth knowledge about
foresight processes and practices. Besides these theoretical contributions, the results can help ﬁrms to
better integrate their strategic intelligence with pursued change processes.
The paper is structured into three main sections. In the second section, a theoretical overview of CF
and DCs is presented. However, we deliberately dispensed with a thorough literature review because,
in accordance, with the qualitative research setting, we wanted to enter the expert interviews with as
little prior theoretical knowledge as possible. We therefore limit our focus on the two concepts’ practical
purpose, working deﬁnitions, and sub-concepts in order to structure the interviews. In the third
section, the research methodology is presented, followed by the ﬁndings in the fourth section derived
from the data analysis. Subsequently, these results are critically discussed. Finally, the managerial
implications, limitations, and suggestions for future research are pointed out.
2. Theoretical Background
The characteristic of qualitative research is to not have a high level of prior knowledge, which
is why only a brief literature review was carried out before conducting the interviews in order to
gain a general understanding of the concepts and to structure the interview questions based on this
basic knowledge. The academic research databases Web of Science as well as EBSCOhost were selected
to execute a structured keyword search. The search aimed at the identiﬁcation of state-of-the-art
review articles and highly cited seminal papers, preferably published in the year 2000 or later. For CF,
the keywords “foresight”, “strategic foresight”, and “corporate foresight” were searched for in the title.
The use of truncations helped to include all possible forms of spellings as well as singular and plural
forms of the keyword. Other synonyms, for instance “futures studies” or “futures research”, were not
included in the search string, as they are associated with another research tradition which is not only
focused on business and management. Subsequently, the abstracts and articles were manually screened
for their relevance to our study. The literature search on DC was conducted similarly, only using the
keyword “dynamic capability” or “dynamic capabilities”. Overall, more high-quality research exists
2.1. Corporate Foresight
Rather than a mere process, CF, sometimes also ‘strategic foresight’ [
] or just ‘foresight’, is
considered as a ﬁrm capability [
] that comprises a set of future-oriented activities like scenario
planning, road mapping or Delphi studies, only to mention some key activities, with the aim of
handling environmental uncertainty [
]. For this purpose, the market environment is scanned and
monitored to detect and analyze relevant drivers of change in order to identify discontinuous change,
as well as possible technological changes and trends which shape the ﬁrm’s evolving future context.
The challenge is not only to recognize what is changing but also to evaluate the impact of this change
for one’s own ﬁrm [
]. The implications for the business and corporate strategy on how to respond
to future events are evaluated resulting in knowledge which helps top managers to lead the company
into the future [
]. This knowledge is integrated into strategic decisionmaking processes to be able to
anticipate these emerging threats and opportunities at an early stage by altering the organization’s
CF exceeds forecasting [
]. While natural processes often can be forecasted because they are based
on causal links, social changes are based on human intentions, social interactions, and coincidence [
In contrast to forecasts with the goal of a clear future prediction, the term CF stands for the consideration
of multiple possible futures. Hence, CF is conceptualized as a ﬁrm’s capability to use a set of practices
which is concerned with what possible future scenarios might look like. They enable ﬁrms to sense
trends faster than competitors and to gain a deeper understanding about the eﬀects of these trends [
From these probable scenarios, the most eﬀective options for action and design are derived. In this
way, the risk of short-sightedness is to be reduced. In addition, it is intended to foster the ability
of companies to anticipate events before they actually occur and, at best, to actively shape their
development, thus strengthening the ﬁrm’s ability to learn and innovate ahead of its competitors.
In brief, ﬁrms should learn from the multiple futures, make strategic decisions and, with the
help of these decisions, secure their long-term competitiveness and survival. Firms must exploit the
environmental changes in the long run, which is why CF has a strategic character [19,20,37,38,41].
2.2. Dynamic Capabilities
Teece et al. are regarded as the founders of the DC approach, having extended the resource-based
view (RBV) through a dynamic perspective [
]. The RBV states that companies can create and maintain
a sustainable competitive advantage in stable environments from resources that are valuable, rare,
inimitable, and organized . In contrast, the DC approach describes the adaptation of the resource
portfolio in turbulent environmental conditions. It thus describes the potential of companies to adapt
to changing environmentals by tailoring and further enhancing internal resources as well as integrating
external resources to seize opportunities [
]. Due to the characteristics of the VUCA world,
a ﬁrm’s resource base has to adapt to changed conditions to create value and generate a competitive
In his later work, Teece extended this view by reﬁning the DC conceptualization through
a three-step approach [
]. First, opportunities and threats are sensed by scanning the external
environment to obtain market, technological, and competitive information from outside and inside the
company (sensing). Second, a strategic response to the detected opportunities has to be formulated
(seizing). Third, the ﬁrm carries out the implications for action, which involves enhancing, combining,
reallocating, and reconﬁguring the tangible and intangible assets (transforming) in order to sustain
proﬁtable growth and maintain competitiveness (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Dynamic Capabilities .
However, the creation of a strategic competitive advantage is not based on having DCs alone
but in using the capabilities earlier than competitors to create resource conﬁgurations that provide
superiority over the competition [28,29,43].
In summary, DC include the functions of identifying market and technological change,
anticipatipating these developments, and implementing means of action at an early stage with
the aim of altering the resource base [
]. DCs enable organizations to “continuously create, extend,
upgrade, protect, and keep relevant the enterprise’s unique asset base” ([
] p. 1319), constituting “the
ﬁrm’s ability to integrate, build, and reconﬁgure internal and external competences to address rapidly
changing environments” ( p. 516). Hence, DCs are decisive for the survival of a ﬁrm .
3. Research Methodology
The objective of our research is to obtain an ‘understanding’ [
] about the links between CF
and DCs as organizational phenomena in the real world [
]. Since this constitutes an unexplored
topic, qualitative expert interviews were conducted. This explorative approach can inductively gain
additional primary material, discover new facts, and generate propositions which can be examined
for their validity in subsequent studies [
]. Therefore, this open-ended approach can extend the
existing theory [
], especially by ﬁlling theoretical gaps and connecting previously unconnected
]. The present study does not formulates propositions. The individual insights from the
interviews are not of interest for the research but the conclusions that can be drawn from the data are.
Therefore, our methodology—building on rudimentary prior theoretical knowledge and searching fo
rnew analytical insights [
]—is in the tradition of ‘theory elaboration’, as coined by Lee et al. and
Maitlis [49,51], meaning a partly deductive and partly inductive approach [52–54].
Qualitative studies are particularly suitable for in-depth analyses of organizational processes [
] and thus capabilities associated with these processes. In particular, we were able to closely
capture foresight experts’ subjective experiences and interpretations of CF, DCs, and their links. Since
these concepts are rather abstract categories, the interviews could also add vividness, concreteness,
and richness to the phenomena and their relations [47,48,56].
3.1. Sample and Data Collection
We employed a purposive sampling technique for in-depth analyses [
]. We selected seven
foresight experts from Germany (Table 1). We collected and analyzed the data right after collection
and continued until reaching a saturation point, i.e., no substantial additional insights could be
]. A similar, recent investigation—exploring the links between CF and eﬀectuation—was
based on interviews with seven futurists and four entrepreneurs [
]. We aimed for maximum variation
while following the principles of appropriateness and adequacy [
]. This sampling approach
allows us to ﬁnd information not only about general trends among the respondents but possibly also
about contrasting data .
Two interviews were carried out by telephone and ﬁve face-to-face, all in German. They lasted
between 25 and 60 min.
A semi-structured interview form was chosen which covered a framework of themes along an
interview guideline with predetermined open questions [
]. This interviewing technique is favored
to gain insights from individuals who are aﬀected by the research phenomenon [
]. It constitutes
the most frequently used qualitative research method [
]. The interview guideline standardizes the
interviewer’s actions, since the questions are basically the same for each interview. The involvement
of the interviewer therefore is rather minimal. The respondents’ statements potentially enable the
researcher to ﬁnd new concepts instead of aﬃrming existing ones .
The open-ended questions allowed the interviewees to answer with their own words and did
not provide them with predeﬁned answers. The questions had to be answered in each interview but
both the order and the wording of the questions depended on the course of the conversation in order
to create a natural conversation situation [
]. By using an interview guideline, it is ensured
that all relevant information is collected in a similar way to enable a better data analysis thereafter.
Moreover, the guideline helped to focus on the answering of the research questions as time was limited.
All questions were re-examined in terms of their relevance and focus on the research question and
tested in an initial interview. The pre-test conﬁrmed that the questions were comprehensible, in a
useful order, and answerable.
Table 1. Sample Overview.
Coding Industry Position
I1 Consulting company, focus: automotive industry Founder and Managing Director
I2 Consulting company, focus: various industries
(e.g., automotive, chemistry, public sector)
Founder and Managing Director
I3 Consulting company, focus: automotive industry Founder and Managing Director
I4 Corporate innovation unit, chemical industry Foresight Manager
I5 Consulting company, focus: various industries
(e.g., logistics, aviation, automotive chemistry)
Founder and Managing Director
I6 Consulting company, focus: various industries
(e.g., food, energy, the public sector)
Founder and Managing Director
I7 Consulting company, focus: various industries
(e.g., energy, transport, healthcare)
Associate Director, Leader of
As an opening to the interview, the objective of the study was presented, explaining that the aim
was to examine the relationships between DCs and CF. The interviewees were guaranteed anonymity
of the given responses to ensure that no conclusions on individual respondents or companies can be
drawn and that personal data are protected. The initial questions on the background of the participants
and their typical activities in foresight served as a start to the conversation because they could easily
be answered and ideally made each respondent comfortable about the interview situation. Using a
question about typical activities of foresight experts, the respondents were asked what precisely they
understand the term CF to mean. The second question addressed the respondents’ understanding
of the concept of DCs. In several cases, the interviewees had their own interpretation of the term
but were not familiar with the scholarly understanding of it. In these cases, the interviewer gave a
short explanation about the concept. The two subsequent questions focused on the impact of CF on
the renewal of competitiveness and the renewal of the ﬁrm’s resource. Successively, the interview
participants were open-endedly asked about their views on the relationships between the three DC
sub-processes (sensing, seizing, and transforming) and CF. The ﬁnal question addressed the abstract
relationship between the two concepts.
3.2. Data Analysis
Data analysis was employed by a constant, comparative method [66,67] which consisted of data
comparison, deduction, conclusions, and veriﬁcation .
In the ﬁrst step, the interviews were transcribed with the software f5transkript. Colloquial
langue was adjusted to standard spelling whilst retaining the sentence form. In addition, word and
sentence breaks (“/”) as well as pauses (“
. . .
”) were marked. Comprehension signals of the currently
non-speaking person are not captured unless the answer consists only of an aﬃrmative or negative
“mhm” without further expression. Non-verbal expressions were only transcribed if they account for a
change in the meaning of a statement. Illustrative quotes in the following sections were translated to
English staying as close to the literal meaning as possible. The texts were anonymized.
In the next step, the texts were coded by the interviewer using the same software and following the
Gioia approach [
]. The 2nd order themes were already given as they corresponded to the interview
questions. Relevant text passages which can be assigned to the corresponding 2nd order themes were
marked in order to get a broad overview and to highlight the structure of the text without adhering
to any existing theory or a priori hypotheses [
]. The marked text passages were then condensed
into keywords, which represent the more precise 1st order themes [
]. As a result, a list of 1st order
concepts that closely correspond to the terms the interviewees used was extracted. We then analyzed
whether the respective keywords were mentioned by multiple respondents. Subsequently, all text
passages with the same codes were compared and evaluated in the sense of inductive theory formation.
The ﬁnal interview question about the understanding of the abstract relationships between DCs and CF
is not listed as a separate 2nd order theme but is intended to illustrate the interviewees’ summarizing
view of the links.
4. Findings and Proposition Generation
The main ﬁnding of the study is that the concept of dynamic capabilities partly corresponds
with foresight and partly has only lose relationships. Figure 2provides a comprehensive overview of
Figure 2. Coding.
4.1. Renewal of Competitiveness
The ﬁrst interview question aimed to ﬁnd out what contribution CF makes to renew
competitiveness. The background to this question is that ﬁrms with DCs can adapt to changing
environmental conditions ahead of their competitors and thus gain competitive advantages. As a
result, competitiveness is renewed in two ways: on the one hand through a temporal advantage over
the competition in which the organization has “to try to understand in every area what the relevant
change trends are and at an early stage not only has to react but has to align [the] portfolio, [the]
organization” (I7, 2019, 04:29, para. 8). On the other hand, a competitive advantage can be achieved
when the ﬁrm not only reacts faster to the changes but, if possible, actively shapes these changes with
the competitors being forced to adapt to the proactively operating company (I1, 2019, 35:09, para. 55).
Consequently, a positive contribution of DCs to the renewal of competitiveness can be concluded.
However, the objective of this question was to ﬁnd out whether also CF contributes to renewing
competitiveness. Four out of seven interviewees reported that CF contributes to the renewal of
competitiveness. One respondent explained that this is possible through “a deep and systematic
understanding [...] of the market environment” (I7, 2019, 03:29, para. 8) by capturing and interpreting
the changes and the emergence of new challenges in the markets, consumer wishes and technologies
(I2, 2019, 06:25, para. 12; I4, 2019, 21:14, para. 24; I7, 2019, 04:29, para. 8). Therefore, CF can be seen as
an antecedent of competitive advantages:
P1: CF fosters a ﬁrm’s better understanding of change in the business environment in such a way that
strategic competitive advantages can be generated.
Additionally, ﬁrms can recognize and sense rather uncertain opportunities that derivate from
the previous path. One respondent interpreted CF as the ﬁrm’s “playing leg” (I5, 2019, 13:23, para.
9–14.16; para. 21):
P2: CF empowers companies to identify opportunities beyond their previous horizons, which can increase
On the basis of this capture of change, an alignment of change and strategy can be initiated
to deﬁne the corporate strategy and positioning (I2, 2019, 06:45, para. 12). The ﬁrm continuously
evaluates whether the chosen strategy is still the right one or a strategic adjustment is needed (I1, 2019,
17:55, para. 31). If the ﬁrm succeeds in addressing the opportunities and challenges earlier than the
competition, then it can renew its competitiveness (I4, 2019, 21:21, para. 24). A respondent mentioned
that “the most important contribution to maintaining the competitiveness of CF [...] is not to be too
strongly or exclusively involved in one driver or a few trends from only one sub-sector but to always
try to look at all social sub-systems” (I7, 2019, 04:00, para. 8). Firms must perceive the major change
trends in each relevant area and must align the organization accordingly in “good times” (I7, 2019,
04:29, para. 8). As one expert reﬂected, CF represents “the spearhead of competitiveness” (I4, 2019,
23:16, para. 24). Hence, a clear link between CF and the renewal of competitiveness can be derived:
P3: Firms conducting CF activities show better-informed strategic decisions, which can result in higher
4.2. Renewal of Resource Base
With the increasing complexity and turbulence of the environment, the need for companies
to quickly anticipate changing environmental conditions by adapting their resources increases.
The answers to the second interview question revealed that ﬁve out of seven interviewees observe a
positive contribution of CF to ﬁrms’ capability to permanently change their resource base so that it
does not become obsolete. Firms identify the need for a resource base adjustment in “good times” and
subsequently identify which resources are required to meet these changes (I1, 2019, 22:00, para. 37; I3,
2019, 11:33, para. 24; I6, 2019, 07:25, para. 12; I7, 2019, 06:34, para. 12). Hence, companies adopt an
outside-in perspective (I2, 2019, 11:26, para. 24):
P4: Companies conducting CF activities adopt an outside-in perspective that fosters a renewal of the
One foresight expert usually conducts a SWOT analysis after the scenario analysis, which addresses
the external opportunities and threats identiﬁed in the scenarios, the strengths, in which “the resources
are essentially present” (I1, 2019, 21:04, para. 37), and the weaknesses of the ﬁrm. The analysis can
contribute to the resource adaptation, the second identiﬁed concept. Firms must clarify whether the
opportunities can be addressed and the threats can be avoided with the available resource base. If this
is not the case, an enhancement of strengths and a reduction and compensation of weaknesses in core
areas that prevent the company from seizing opportunities and avoiding risks are required (I1, 2019,
22:00, para. 37):
P5: The renewal of the resource base is determined by the future positioning identiﬁed through CF.
4.3. CF and Sensing
In the main part of the interview, the interviewees were asked about the relationships of DCs on
CF. Sensing revealed three concepts regarding CF. In particular, all interview participants believed
that there exists a clear connection between sensing and CF (I1, 2019, 25:06, para. 45; I2, 2019, 17:53,
para. 24; I3, 2019, 20:41, para. 40; I4, 2019, 37:43, para. 40; I5, 2019, 23:31, para. 31; I6, 2019, 10:23,
para. 22; I7, 2019, 12:25, para. 20). CF is considered a “perception tool” that detects changes in the
corporate environment (I3, 2019, 36:52, para. 38; I5, 2019, 22:19, para. 29; I7, 2019, 12:38, para. 20). An
environmental analysis is carried out in the sensing process. “Foresight is [therefore] a tool for sensing”
(I3, 2019, 20:37, para. 38). For this reason, sensing constitutes a process step of CF (I1, 2019, 25:34, para.
45), as one expert described: “CF is the only instrument used to sense environmental changes” (I5,
2019, 21:43, para. 29). In the perception part, CF should therefore play the decisive role (I7, 2019, 12:38,
para. 20) since “it is the only instrument [...] that [...] can increase the perceptiveness of the ﬁrm” (I5,
2019, 22:19, para. 29):
P6: The purpose of CF is to sense environmental changes.
Sensing constitutes a reactive action of the ﬁrm, as it perceives changes after they have already
occurred (I2, 2019, 19:45, para. 26). Thus, the reactivity represents the third identiﬁed concept, meaning
that many ﬁrms do not operate proactively.
4.4. CF and Seizing
As much as the interviewees agreed on the relationship between sensing and CF, their opinions
on seizing diﬀered to some extent. While four participants said that they do not see a relationship
between CF and seizing and that the “process break” for them occurs after the sensing phase, two
other experts stated they see a rather partial relationship, and one mentioned a clear relationship.
A total of six concepts were identiﬁed, the ﬁrst being a perception tool. This further illustrates that the
majority of the participants considered CF primarily as a perception and observation tool and less as
an implementation tool (I3, 2019, 21:21, para. 44; I7, 2019, 14:58, para. 24). For this reason, a “process
break” emerges, since seizing is not integrated in the CF process (I1, 2019, 27:50, para. 47; I3, 2019, 21:09,
para. 44; I5, 2019, 25:38, para. 35, 26:07, para. 35). The lack of integration is often related to a “personnel
break” in ﬁrms (I1, 2019, 28:52, para. 47). External foresight consultants often are engaged to conduct
future-oriented environmental analyses but are not involved in the further decisionmaking process (I7,
2019, 13:34, para. 22). Rather, the ﬁrm’s executives decide on the strategic direction (I1, 2019, 29:21,
para. 47). For this reason, an “interface”, which may lead to a lack of common future understanding,
is required to transfer the gained knowledge from the sensing process (I1, 2019, 30:12, para. 47; I7,
2019, 13:30, para. 22). CF ultimately has the task of collecting the relevant knowledge during the
sensing process and then operationalizing it in a way so it can be transferred to decisionmaking (I7,
2019, 13:30, para. 22). The prepared knowledge is passed on to the management via a functioning
interface. Consequently, a key ﬁnding is that CF has a descriptive character (I3, 2019, 23:51, para. 46)
and is regarded as a decision preparation, but not as decision making (I7, 2019, 13:30, para. 22). Most
of the participants shared this view:
P7: Knowledge generated in the CF process can inform and therefore improve the seizing process.
4.5. CF and Transforming
Six out of seven foresight experts did not see a clear relationship between CF and transforming.
Due to the fact that foresight experts often are external consultants, they do not participate in the
reconﬁguration and transformation of the business (I3, 2019, 24:17, para. 48; I3, 2019, 24:36, para. 50).
Although CF is not integrated in the transformation process, it can give the impetus for a change
process (I5, 2019, 28:53, para. 37). However, it is necessary that transforming was induced by insights
from CF in order to be competitive in the long-run:
P8: Knowledge generated in the CF process can generate an impetus and improve the transforming process
In summary, it can be concluded that four out of seven interviewees saw a clear process break
after the sensing phase, while two others saw only a partial relationship between CF and seizing.
Interestingly, these participants work as external foresight consultants. Only one of the experts is an
internally employed foresight manager. He had an entirely diﬀerent view to the consultants. For him,
all dynamic capability activities are part of the CF process. In his company, all three sub-activities are
handled and implemented in the same way as they are described in the working deﬁnition for this
research project (I4, 2019, 41:20, para. 48). These divergent views between consultants and internal
employees represent an important and interesting insight, which will be discussed in greater detail in
the following chapter.
In the last interview question, the participants were asked about their view on the abstract
relationship between DCs and CF. The majority of respondents considered the two concepts to be
related and coexistent (I2, 2019, 51:46, para. 50; I6, 2019, 19:41, para. 40). They are part of each other
(I1, 2019, 42:31, para. 63) and mutually strengthen each other (I1, 2019, 42:59, para. 63). Two other
interviewees argued that CF can be described as a special type of DC (I2, 2019, 50:59, para. 48; I6, 2019,
17:18, para. 36). One of the observations made is “that it must actually be an equilibrium” (I5, 2019,
29:19, para. 39). This means that CF triggers the observation of a need for change but DC processes put
the change process into action. Therefore, DCs must already be present in the company to a certain
extent since they cannot be triggered by CF alone (I5, 2019, 30:19, para. 39) as one expert described
it: “Both must exist in the company and they must always somehow be managed together” (I3, 2019,
32:15, para. 60). In addition, it needs the openness of the company for both, DCs and CF (I1, 2019,
12:37, para. 21; I3, 2019, 32:55, para. 62):
P9: The more balanced the joint integration of CF and DCs is, the higher the future orientation will be.
This proposition leads to the assumption that companies with a higher future orientation can
perform better. Both concepts are interdependent and support each other.
The time perspective of both concepts also related both concepts to each other. While CF takes a
mere future perspective as perception tool, DCs as the adaptability require each company to remain in
the market and take on a present perspective (I3, 2019, 33:26, para. 62–34:53, para. 66). CF supports
DCs to the extent that DC processes can use methods from CF, and probably also the other way around
(I6, 2019, 18:36, para. 38–19:56, para. 42).
The three-part approach of perceiving, prospecting, and probing represents the superordinate
process steps of CF, as it is designed in the company of one interviewee (I6, 2019, 04:22, para. 6).
Perceiving is the process by which companies become aware of external change. Prospecting enables
ﬁrms to understand the drivers and direction of change and to bring it into the context of their own
organization. Probing refers to actions which are derived for implementation (I6, 2019, 04:22, para. 6).
This approach helps to understand how a ﬁrm’s capabilities and resources need to be changed in order
to remain competitive (I6, 2019, 06:25, para. 10–07:25, para. 12). These future preparation activities
show parallels to the three-part approach of DCs.
The results revealed that CF primarily corresponds to sensing activities, while transforming is
not integrated in the CF process. This is in congruence with the ﬁndings by Heger and Boman, who
investigated the use of foresight knowledge in ﬁrm networks and found that mainly sensing rather than
initiating activities are subject of foresight knowledge [
]. Similarly, Rhisiart et al. argue that ﬁrms
engaging in scenario planning can strengthen their sensing capabilities but no other DC subtypes [
The experts in our study disagreed on seizing. With regard to the ﬁrst two interview questions,
there is also a positive connection with CF. Firms must continuously renew their resource base if they
are to survive with DCs being employed because they aim at removing resources that prevent the
company from seizing opportunities as well as recombining old resources in new ways [
using DCs earlier and more eﬃciently than competing ﬁrms, it has an impact on competitiveness.
Our study showed that all experts saw a positive signiﬁcant relationship between CF and the
renewal of the resource base on the one hand and the renewal of competitiveness on the other. Hence,
not only DCs can be used to explain how companies leverage their resource base, but also CF enables
a ﬁrm to detect a need to renew its resource portfolio with the long-term goal of sustaining ﬁrm
performance and competitiveness. One can argue that, in the VUCA world, knowledge as a resource is
considered one of the most important sources of competitive advantage [
]. This future-oriented
knowledge is crucial for renewal processes and gained through CF activities.
CF can be regarded as a DC as mentioned by one interviewee (I6, 2019, 17:18, para. 36), since it
represents the speciﬁc capability to gain knowledge about the environment and how it is changing
in the future (sensing). The expert answers to the ﬁrst two interview questions crystallized a link
between the two concepts. Collectively, the renewal of the resource base and therefore competitiveness
lead to the renewal of the strategy, which is the main goal of DCs and can therefore can be considered
a goal of CF. The objective of strategic renewal is the long-term competitiveness of a ﬁrm through
aligning internal capabilities and resources as well as the change in the external environment [
For a renewal approach to strategy, the resource base has to be updated in order to secure the long-term
competitiveness. This has to happen as early as possible, bringing DCs and CF into the game as
powerful lenses to examine technological and market change. In short, CF activities stimulate processes
that lead to resource adjustment. Adapting the resource base to changes in the business environment
generates competitive advantages and thus ideally leads to an edge over competitors and increased
In close connection with the partly inconsistent opinions among the experts is the issue of
diﬀerence between external foresight consultants and internal foresight managers. During the
interviews, it became obvious that the only interviewee who pursues CF activities for internal purposes
and not for external clients takes a strinkingly diﬀerent view of the integration of CF in the three
DC sub-processes. One possible explanation for this result could be the mentioned lack of uniform
deﬁnitions. Thus, the range of CF is perceived diﬀerently between consultants and activities are thus
embedded and integrated in diﬀerent ways. This may also be the case depending on the individual
ﬁrm. In this context, the ﬁrm size can also have a considerable inﬂuence on the integration of CF.
On the one hand, a positive relationship between the ﬁrm size and the execution of environmental
analyses can be derived. Consequently, CF is used more frequently in large companies than in smaller
ones, since the latter are more dynamic (I4, 2019, 43:05, para. 50). Additionally, larger companies are
more likely to engage in CF since they have more ﬁnancial resources than smaller companies (I4, 2019,
31:22, para. 34). On the other hand, in large companies a personnel break can often be observed, which
prevents a deep integration of CF. However, the diﬀerence between external and internal consultants
is not only a matter of job title but also depends on the respective ﬁrm. Thus, an internal foresight
manager from another ﬁrm may assess the situation diﬀerently than the interviewed foresight manager.
A central element of qualitative research is openness. Accordingly, the interviewer approached
the investigation without a predeﬁned theoretical lens but rather a high level of openness towards
the research objective. Nevertheless, it was formerly expected that all DC sub-processes would be
somewhat related to CF. However, this expectation was refuted during the evaluation of the interviews.
The authors’ expectation is in line with the respondents’ view: CF and DC should be further
integrated in order to ensure a solid foundation for strategic decisionmaking. The division of work, i.e.,
the separation of information gathering by CF and decisionmaking based on this information might
have adverse eﬀects. It can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Therefore, CF should
be further integrated into all DC sub-processes. CF creates orientation knowledge by an intense
engagement with (possible) changes in the environment (I7, 2019, 14:18, para. 22). This knowledge
triggers processes of resource adaptation. Accordingly, CF can be considered as a perception and
observation tool, but not as an implementation tool. This result does not correspond to the authors’
Openness is not only a central aspect of qualitative research but is also important for the
development of a ﬁrm. Firms must possess this attribute in order to gain experience. The data indeed
points toward this fact. Several interview participants stated that companies should not hesitate if a
scenario does not develop as expected. A key part of this is to be open in dealing with mistakes and to
learn from them. In line with this is a statement from the interviews: “this openness in dealing with
future options is, in my view, the crux” (I1, 2019, 12:37, para. 21). In this context, managers have a
distinctive role in the DC process. Capturing new strategic opportunities is a managerial function.
However, it is not possible for a manager to have a concrete idea of DCs, since a uniform, generally
accepted deﬁnition of the complex construct of dynamic capabilities does not exist yet.
The aim of this paper was to explore the links between CF and DCs, two concepts considered to
be important for companies to generate competitive advantages by dealing with future opportunities.
For this reason, seven foresight experts with diﬀerent functions and backgrounds were interviewed.
The main ﬁnding of the study is that CF is not clearly integrated in all subcategories of DCs. However,
they cannot be managed independently if a ﬁrm wants to build a superior position in future markets.
At present, it can be concluded that there exists a relationship between CF and DCs regarding the
sensing process but CF is hardly involved in the subsequent steps.
A ﬁrst important step for a deeper integration of seizing and transforming is a ﬁrm’s reformulated
understanding of both concepts which broadens them in order to create a common conceptual
understanding. In this way, diﬀerent conceptual perceptions between internal and external foresight
experts as well as between companies can be reduced.
The ﬁndings have several managerial implications. When major environmental changes are
underestimated or not recognized, ﬁrms may risk a strategic drift and lose their competitive position.
In the VUCA world, ﬁrms cannot rely on static processes and rigid resources bases as the environment
is ever-evolving dynamically. The resource base has to be renewed appropriately to renew competitive
advantages. To handle environmental uncertainty, it is important for companies to possess DCs.
CF itself can be regarded as a speciﬁc DC that enables a ﬁrm to detect the need to renew its portfolio of
resources. Hence, management needs to understand the relevance and meaning of both concepts. In the
propositions, a positive relationship between the two concepts was deduced. A joint consideration
can therefore lead to a superior ﬁrm performance. Therefore, management should consider CF and
It is obvious that it is better for ﬁrms to be proactive in order to gain advantages over competitors.
If this is not possible, they have to be reactive at least and do not ignore occurring changes. Otherwise,
the ﬁrm may not stay in the market. For this reason, there must be an awareness for the changing
conditions, as well as the necessity for CF.
Finally, the results should sensitize companies to be aware of the relevance of the personnel break in
the DC approach. A strong focus on the involvement during environmental scanning is recommended
for management. If this is not possible, then the consultants conducting the environmental analysis
should be integrated in the decisionmaking process. Management should not underestimate the loss of
information when diﬀerent individuals are involved in the information gathering and decisionmaking
process, as strategically unfavorable decisions may be made because the accuracy of the information
decreases during the knowledge transfer.
There are several limitations associated with this research that have to be acknowledged. It is
intended to give a ﬁrst indication about the relationships between CF and DCs. Nevertheless, more
research should be conducted to gain speciﬁc insights.
Due to the limited number of interviews, the study lacks the means to analyze the results
quantitatively and make statistical generalizations. Due to the small sample, representativeness and
a high level of generalizability could not be achieved. Future research should test our qualitatively
generated propositions and consider moderators and mediators.
Similarly, mainly external consultants were interviewed, which may exclude deeper insights
from internal foresight experts. As pointed out before, the conceptual perception diﬀered between
the respondents. A recommendation for further research is therefore to interview a larger sample.
Interesting insights could be provided by variations across industries and professions of the respondents.
Future studies could also address the diﬀerences between internal foresight managers and external
foresight consultants that were observed. It may be important to achieve a balance between both
among the sample. Another possibility would be to consider small and large enterprises separately
in order to achieve speciﬁc results for diﬀerent company sizes. At this point, it would be interesting
to examine whether the respondents’ assumption that the integration of CF depends on the size of
the company is correct or can be refuted. In need for further investigation is the statement of one
interviewee saying that it is important to not only look at the company and its resources singularly,
but rather in relation to other companies and stakeholders (I6, 2019, 07:45, para. 12). Often companies
alone do not dispose of suﬃcient resources to execute CF eﬀectively, which is why they have to be
considered in relation to other companies in order to dispose of suﬃcient resources (I6, 2019, 08:23,
para. 14). In addition, this may point future research towards the relevance of jointly considering
Additionally, we adopted a rather narrow DC lens focusing on the purpose and sub-processes
of DCs. For an exploratory study, this procedure is adequate. However, DC research reveals a
complex ﬁeld with many more conceptualizations. An example of this is learning as the basis for DCs,
or path-dependencies indicating that DCs depend on a ﬁrm’s previous decisions and routines, which
have not been included in the study. Future research should expand on the DC conceptualization.
Despite these limitations, this explorative study oﬀers a ﬁrst analysis and encourages future
research towards a joint consideration.
Conceptualization, L.-M.S. and V.T.; methodology, L.-M.S. and V.T.; software, L.-M.S.;
formal analysis, L.-M.S.; investigation, L.-M.S. and V.T.; writing—original draft, L.-M.S. and V.T.; writing—review
and editing, V.T.; funding acquisition, V.T. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of
Funding: The research project received no funding.
Acknowledgments: We gratefully acknowledge the respondents’ engagement in the study.
Conﬂicts of Interest: The authors declare there is no conﬂict of interest with regard to this manuscript.
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