Companies are starting to see that they need to utilize foresight as an advanced innovation process for seeking new business opportunities. This article will cover the different elements of foresight and what do you need know to get the right composition of your future exploration team.
Faces of Foresight
First, you need to understand that there are several faces of foresight, and depending on your industry it may be more intensive than the other. However, it is still a best practice to have a team of mixed backgrounds, even if you’re intensively foresighting technology for opportunities. What are the different faces of Foresight and why are they important?
The faces of foresight is a structured approach in gaining insight for your foresight activities. They are separated into 3 faces: Market Foresight, Customer Foresight, and Technology Foresight. An added element is the connection aspect which is a key element catalyzes the three focus areas for a greater impact on your organization.
Market Foresight — is knowledge of market changes ahead of competitors and convert that knowledge into creative and timely new offerings. Market intelligence gives your organization knowledge of the current competitive market, however in VUCA world, understanding the movement of organizations becomes less predictable. Nonetheless, having a great overview on your position in the market, what are the regulation relevant to the market, and indications of movement and benchmarking other competitors will be crucial in foresight for your strategy. It is just as important to have a good overview of capabilities within the organization, as you develop a strategy for the next years, the capabilities will need to be built up to maintain the competitive advantage.
Customer Foresight — identification and consideration of future customer needs are required for radical and disruptive innovations. There are signals that allow us to evaluate the needs of future customers, by finding and following trends in the market, gaining customer insight through ethnographic research, interviews, and evaluating their needs through experimentation.
Technology Foresight — observe the longterm future of science and technology with the aim to identify the emerging technologies that will probably produce the greatest value. Technology has the potential to have a catalytic effect on the future offering of your organization, therefore being aware of emerging technology and aligning it with your strategy has high importance.
Connection — it is equally important or even more important to understand how the research is interconnected and the “why” of the trajectory. Therefore, to have deep knowledge of the reasons why a trend moves and how they impact each other, makes for better predictions and tangible future scenarios.
While we don’t know what your company governance is here are few suggestions on what roles would fit into your future exploration teams.
When it comes to market foresight, the profiles will need to have knowledge and skills in being able to understand their industry environment. The person suited for the role of market foresighter has a good overview of the industry and where the company is placed in the market. He/she will be able to have an understanding of the political movement shaping the industry, deduce the strategy of competitors, be concerned with financials and understand the capabilities of their organization.
Examples: Business Developer/Strategist, Lawyer
Education: Business Management, Economics, International Relations, Law, History
Customer foresight relies on deep knowledge in the customer need and wants. The profile that is most suitable will have knowledge and skill related to understanding and engaging customer segments. The customer foresight will normally have good social skills, being able to empathize with customers to gain an understanding of their needs and wants. The role of the customer foresighter is to understand the underlying mental models of the customer which helps navigate future customer experiences.
Examples: Customer Insights, Account Manager, Customer Service, Sales Manager, Social Media Manager
Education: Marketing and Communications, Social Sciences (anthropology/sociology), Design
Technology foresight profiles will have a long scope of relevant and deep tech knowledge. This profile suits individuals who have deep technological knowledge, an understanding of new technologies and preferably a network to other organizations with new technologies. The tech foresighter will be able to scout new technologies and have a good idea of what technology is possible today, what is being developed and what is theoretically possible in the future.
Examples: Engineer, Scientist, Biologist, Physician, Chemist, Surgeon
Education: Engineering (Civil, Electrical, IT. etc.), Natural Sciences (Chemistry, Physics, Biology), Medicine
While all three types of foresighters can give almost expert opinions about the future of each category, there is a need to have an open minded individual that is able to connect the dots and identify white space opportunity areas. This clutch role is about taking on an understanding of each perspective and exploring how they all can be connected to ultimately create value for the organization. There is no one place to find the clutch, but if you have an innovation department set up, there is a good chance that this person will be able to handle the responsibilities of the clutch. The clutch will have demonstrated qualities such as leadership, future-thinking, strategy, communication, and analytical skills.
The minimum amount of people in future explorations teams should be 4 people covering each role. However, some industries would need some specialists involved for example a MedTech company will most likely need a combination of expertise in Medicine, Engineering and Software. A short term solution to would be consulting your internal departments but this will not be as effective as a dedicated team exploring future scenarios.
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