In the past, corporate foresight research was often based on processes and fixed structures. It was assumed that specialized units within the organization collect data by using specific methods like scenario analyses and roadmapping. Then recommendations for following processes (e.g. innovation management, strategy process) are derived from analyzed collected data.
But there are alternatives: effective corporate foresight can also be organized without a process model but with certain capabilities and activities. This is shown in one of our case studies at an US-based multinational energy systems manufacturer in Europe (hereby referred to as “Enerco”).
In this case study we explore how corporate foresight can be carried out without dedicated processes and which mechanism are used for the development of needed capabilities.
Three factors are found to be essential for a corporate foresight system based on every employee’s contribution instead of pre-assigned processes:
- the promotion of individual initiatives by every employee
- a corporate culture which promotes vertical and horizontal communication and collaboration
- board-level initiatives, which provide sufficient funding and backing to develop new business fields
Regarding the first point, it is crucial for the company to have the right people: Enerco’s recruitment and personnel development process is based on five Personality Traits that are believed to be supportive for organic growth: external focus, clear thinking, imagination, inclusiveness, and expertise. The employees’ scores on the traits play a major role on who is hired or promoted and guide individual training. As the traits widely match the suggested characteristics of foresighters in literature, Enerco’s personnel policy fosters every employee’s ability to scan the environment. On the one hand, this policy results in promoting systematically capabilities and characteristics which are essential for achieving company’s goals. On the other hand common values are ensured which facilitate internal communication and cooperation.
The creation of the right environment is another important factor: Enerco’s corporate culture is open, unifying and pervasive. Cross-functional and cross-hierarchical communication is expected and common in practice. Moreover, company-wide collaboration is regarded as important and strongly supported by executives and top-management. This culture of trust and openness particularly supports internal information gathering and rapid insight diffusion as essential parts of a functioning corporate foresight system.
The third factor is board-level initiatives. The top management is facilitating promising ideas from employees by increased attention and by allocating dedicated resources. These initiatives complement every employee’s responsibility for corporate foresight and the corporate culture. Every employee knows the relevance of these activities for the company and therefore supports them as a matter of course. These initiatives foster organic growth by innovations and development of new business fields.
All three mechanisms build upon each other. The “Growth Traits” ensure that every employee have the needed capabilities for effective corporate foresight. The corporate culture establishes an environment where individual capabilities are complemented and new ideas are generated by corporate foresight results. Finally the top management provides necessary resources for the development of innovative concepts and new business fields.
For more details read the full article:
- In German: Knab, S. and R. Rohrbeck Strategische Frühaufklärung bei General Electric: Von der Fähigkeit alle Mitarbeiter zu Mobilisieren um Umbrüche im Unternehmensumfeld erfolgreich zu managen)” In: J. Gausemeier, Vorausschau und Technologieplanung, Paderborn: Heinz Nixdorf Institut, 259-272.
- In English: Chapter 5.8: Involving Every Employee to Manage Discontinuous Change”, In: Rohrbeck, R. 2010. Corporate Foresight: Towards a Maturity Model for the Future Orientation of a Firm. Heidelberg and New York: Physica-Verlag, Springer.