In this recent article we aimed to establish to what extent corporate foresight supports the innovation effort of a company. We build on our sample of 20 case studies to identify three roles that can be played by corporate foresight.
In the figure below we show where along the innovation process a contribution from corporate foresight is possible and desirable.
The three roles can enhance the innovation capacity of a firm in different ways:
- In the strategist role, corporate foresight directs innovation activities by creating a vision, providing strategic guidance, consolidating opinions, assessing and repositioning innovation portfolios, and identifying the new business models of competitors.
- In the initiator role, corporate foresight triggers innovation initiatives by identifying new customer needs, technologies, and product concepts of competitors.
- In the opponent role, corporate foresight challenges the innovators to create better and more successful innovations by challenging basic assumptions, challenging the state-of-the-art of current R & D projects, and scanning for disruptions that could endanger current and future innovations.
It should also be noted that in our cases studies no single firm performed all three roles. This implies first of all that these firms do not get the full scope of benefits from their corporate foresight systems. It however also suggest that the average maturity level of corporate foresight ist still rather low. That would open the opportunity to outcompete rivals by having a more advances corporate foresight system.
In particular we would expect that in addition to initiating innovation activities (often in terms of R&D projects) it would be vital for firm performance that an active portfolio management ensures sufficient strategic alignment. Here an enacted strategist role would be vital. In addition the opponent role should contribute in particularly to ensure a high level of innovativeness and for firms that follow an innovation leader position we would expect that it is particularly important to enact it.