Simplifying the Complexity of Foresight and Strategy

Foresight is a powerful tool that organizations can utilize to anticipate and lay the necessary groundwork for alternative probable futures.

Industry  Case Study
Hydraulics, Structural Mechanics KSB

What is Foresight and Strategy?

Foresight is an umbrella term that refers to a structured and systematic way of identifying possible futures to be best prepared for plausible futures. Several tools and methodologies are available to help guide foresight efforts. Once the foresight stages have been successfully completed, organizational strategy can be created to align and answer future opportunities and challenges.

The future holds both obstacles and potential for growth for any organization. Foresight activities assist in illuminating how to best position an organization for successfully adapting to the future. Identifying opportunities and challenges alone will not position an organization for growth. These activities need to be coupled with action, which requires plotting roadmaps and assessing the best avenues for growth. Strategic action needs to be developed as a result of fully comprehending and evaluating unfolding futures. Strategic foresight actions are strengthened when an in-depth understanding of plausible futures is filtered through envisioning how organizational capabilities, operations, and processes might perform in the imagined futures.

The systematic collecting, interpreting, and prioritizing activities that make up the foresight phase in end2end innovation yields the most value when it is participatory and aligns all stakeholders and employees to strategic foresight commitments.

Why is it important for End2End Innovation?

To innovate requires imaginativeness, resourcefulness, and competencies. Knowing what to imagine, how to back that with which resources, and knowing which areas of the organization to capacitate can be a daunting undertaking. Systematic foresight and strategy support this process by involving diverse input and multi-touch navigation. Successful innovation is a non-linear journey that can be systemized to create clear pathways for implementing market-fit ideas.

As part of the strategic foresight stages, environmental scanning provides an opportunity to look beyond the most immediate and obvious changes in an organizations’ future. Disruptive innovation relies on paying attention to shifts on the fringes and interpreting and translating such shifts. Too often, leaders only look within the boundaries of their own industry, which only provides a limited view on global transitions.

Simplifying the Complexity

✅ Foresight includes environmental scanning, which scans the environment for signals of shifts in societal, technological, environmental, economic, and political landscapes.

✅ Understanding the driving forces of these shifts assists in clustering together short, medium, and long-term opportunities and challenges.

✅ Develop descriptions of the evolutionary and transitionary states, taking into account the drivers and implications. 

✅ Envision plausible futures and identify what success would look like in those futures.

✅ Create a strategy that reflects organizational alignment, capacity building, and transformational factors.

How a Hydraulics, Structural Mechanics Corporation Simplified its Foresight and Strategy Process

THE CHALLENGE

Founded in Frankenthal, Germany, in 1871, KSB has a presence on all continents with its own sales and marketing organizations, manufacturing facilities, and service operations and employs more than 15,000 people. KSB is a leading supplier of pumps, valves, and related systems, and as an industry leader, they needed to ensure a sustainable competitive edge in an increasingly digital landscape.

To remain competitive, the organization needed to stay proactive and constantly make informed decisions based on broader landscapes. Emerging trends and rapid technological advances needed to inform strategy and mobilization mechanisms needed to be easily implemented and easy to use. Some outdated frameworks did not support end2end innovation goals, and new systems needed to address siloed idea production, the ability to assess global and local changes and impact and encourage participation across organizational divisions.

THE KSB OBJECTIVES

To transition to more modern and digital idea management with the possibility to extend to innovation management and establish a transparent platform for creativity, communication, and potential for development. To increase the degree of openness (global and external) and navigation of content towards trends and technologies.


POTENTIAL PITFALLS 

During Foresight and Strategy phases, some common pitfalls are:

  • Reliance on single pieces of information to inform strategy
  • Internal biases in decision-making 
  • Viewing foresight and strategy as a singular occurrence as opposed to a continuous activity
  • Over-optimism in results expectations without strengthening the foundational capabilities for innovation 

Foresight needs dedicated roles and processes and simultaneously needs cross-organizational input.

THE SOLUTION 

To break down internal knowledge silos, KSB implemented a digital platform where more than 7000 users could submit their ideas and participate in the innovation process. The digitization of the idea management process meant that employees could participate in dedicated areas depending on their roles and expertise within the organization. 

Each idea was assigned to a specific idea category (e.g., work safety, resource efficiency), which was then evaluated by an appropriate expert who decided on the official acceptance of the submission. Submissions for improvement with a calculable benefit under €1,500 become part of a lottery, whereas ideas with a benefit of more than €1,500 undergo a special assessment and are awarded and integrated separately.

The platform has been expanded within KBS since 2019. This extension allows direct monitoring of competitors for assessing the company’s business model, and all the information can now be bundled into action fields (clusters) and then linked together to be analyzed in a temporal context. Ultimately, the innovation board decides which cluster findings to transfer to bigger projects or directly implement in the organization. The defined innovation fields can also support further idea campaigns or subsequent innovation processes.

THE RESULTS

The digitization of idea management processes and the consequent expansion of the platform to include ‘Corporate Foresight’ and ‘Competitor Analysis’ yielded a digitally-enabled organizational cultural change towards an agile performance engine. KSB digitalized the entire manual process from idea submission to assessment to develop faster improvement processes. The processing time of an idea from submission to implementation continuously decreased by more than 60 % (reference year 2017). 

Employees can comment, like, and discuss each other’s ideas - on the platform and offline, which makes knowledge sharing far more accessible across the organization. Gamification and targeted incentivized campaigns increase the system’s attractiveness and user motivation. Ideas are processed with more openness, improving the quality and thematic diversity of all submitted ideas. The platform serves as a single point of truth that makes the process more efficient and valuable. 

By incorporating the expertise of various departments, most topics are handled more dynamically in the foresight process, reducing knowledge silos. It is easier to identify experts and the appropriate contact person in each specific field, and cross-departmental cooperation is encouraged while the synergy effects between the company suggestion system and corporate foresight become visible. It is more possible to identify strategic innovation fields for growth in potential attractive markets and use them to generate new ideas.

Using Signals that Indicate Change 

The ITONICS Signals Feed uses the textual information you add to your content to intelligently recommend news, patents, and scientific publications that are relevant to your content, so you can stay up-to-date.

You can pin Signals you believe represent potential indicators of change, and collaborate with your colleagues to establish which weak signals indicate trends, and how these trends may impact an industry or organization. With only a few clicks, you can also create Elements from Signals you believe are especially important in order to track them more closely.

Use the Insights module to do a deep dive into topics, to refine the Elements’ Signals Feeds for monitoring purposes, or to discover the proverbial needle in the haystack using powerful querying, filtering, and visualizations tools.