Most companies do not have a defined process to track and respond to disruptions in the market. Foresight is a technique that helps you recognize changes in your business environment at an early stage so that you can prepare for the future. The Gartner® Hype Cycle™ for Innovation Management Techniques, 2021, however, warns that an ad-hoc approach to foresight can lead to weakened strategic planning. The alternative is continuous foresight: a better approach to foresight that is more disciplined and consistent. Companies that adopt continuous foresight can respond faster to changes and gain a competitive advantage.
Not looking ahead has a cost. If you were a shaving company in 2011 and did not anticipate and respond to the trend of millennials growing beards, you helplessly would have watched as sales declined. But how do you know what you do not know? If you are unaware of a societal trend, you will not even know what word to research.
This is where foresight tools come in. Foresight is about predicting what is needed in the future. But many companies take an ad-hoc approach to foresight; it may happen quarterly in strategic planning sessions. In contrast, continuous foresight involves relentlessly monitoring change and determining how to respond.
It cannot be a once-off, disjointed effort. Continuous Foresight requires a disciplined approach, a formal process to assess trends. Otherwise, your company’s innovation management may end up following one person’s gut instincts instead of systematically proceeding based on credible data. In fact, that is a common pitfall. Many companies rely on single pieces of information. Internal biases influence their decision-making. Then there is unfounded optimism and expectations for big results, even though the company has no dedicated process for foresight. This disorganized approach is not a path to success. Disruptions to the market will catch you off-guard, like a bearded millennial.
The Gartner Hype Cycle’s priority matrix for Innovation Management Techniques says that Continuous Foresight will take 5-10 years for mainstream adoption. Being placed in the ‘Innovation Trigger’ phase of the Hype Cycle indicates that it is new and has great potential impact if it becomes part of an organization’s competency. However, most companies do not understand the benefits of continuous foresight yet.
According to Gartner, one pitfall is when “leaders may continue to ignore or devalue nontechnology trends. This will limit the adoption of continuous foresight and will result in gaps in the strategic planning process because inputs are incomplete.” Gartner further says, “IT leaders tend to focus solely on short-term needs when it is equally important to plan for how to come out of this crisis. They will need to make decisions now in terms of technology investment and technology innovation initiatives to prepare well for postcrisis challenges and opportunities.”
How can your business survive in this changing world filled with uncertainty? You need to anticipate the future to thrive. Continuous foresight helps you envision plausible futures and plan for success. You can recognize drivers of change at an early stage and respond to these changes earlier than your competitors. Foresight includes environmental scanning, which scans for signals of shifts in societal, technological, environmental, economic, and political landscapes. The next step is to connect the dots between those trends and turn the findings into actions for your company.
All of this may sound intimidating. How are you supposed to keep track of so many forces that could mean success or failure for your business? Luckily, there are digital tools that can help make continuous foresight manageable.
ITONICS Foresight offers 20 software-based foresight methods for future analysis. To make informed decisions despite high complexity, ITONICS Foresight enables fast simulations of the future under various conditions. Our intuitive user interface makes scenario creation easy.
Gartner, Hype Cycle for Innovation Management Techniques, 2021, 12 July 2021, Jackie Fenn et. Al.
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