When weak and strong signals are combined with scenario building and strategic debate, strategic knowledge will be created and innovation supported; this concept is summarised as the “foresight continuum”. Foresight is an important contemporary management discipline because it proactively attempts to highlight long-term opportunities and threats in advance. It expands beyond traditional boundaries and leads to a continuous process of developing and debating strategy. This creates a culture driven by innovation and provides strategic alternatives for continuous and discontinuous futures. In all probability, the importance of foresight in strategy development will increase because market pressure and dynamics will remain the same or even increase, leading to stronger competition and consequently a need for long-term innovative planning capabilities. Organisations might find themselves in situations where foresight leadership is a key success factor in management, as they try to gain a competitive advantage from superior understanding of trends, discontinuities and changes in the environment, in order to identify new business ventures, expand market presence via innovations or shift competition to a different dimension.
This research contributed to current practice through the development of a framework for advancing strategic corporate foresight and by confirming the research propositions which support a contemporary foresight-centric strategy development process. In addition, the research highlighted the need for a scanning strategy, demonstrated the value of, and optimal approach to, utilising strong signals and wildcards, confirmed the value and role of future agents, and established the need for qualitative methods in foresight. At the same time, it generated evidence in support of a fairly minimalist approach to the role of ICT capabilities and infrastructure in foresight, and identified a significant need for additional methods to support the process of presenting and challenging an organisation with the potential futures. All these elements together allow an organisation to benefit from a foresight continuum, which enables an organisation to grow and prepare for the future through open debates, innovation capabilities and a cultural mindset which displays responsiveness and readiness for change.
There is no single pathway to foresight, as its application and success depend on the organisation’s culture, the challenges faced and its readiness for change, the environment and industry, as well as the existing mental models of managers. Still, small, medium and large organisations can all benefit from foresight activities. In larger organisations, and to some degree in medium-sized organisations, foresight might require a specialised strategy or foresight team and a network of future agents, in conjunction with a think tank or future committee comprised of senior executives responsible for the management of the portfolio and response strategies in each business unit. In smaller organisations, foresight can be embedded in the organisation’s culture and values and regarded as a basis for identifying the next disruptive innovation to grow the business and ensure survival in a competitive environment.
While forecasting from past knowledge and data will become less accurate as discontinuities or strategic surprises from the environment trigger immediate or long-term change, the scanning of the environment for weak signals will become increasingly important to the strategic success of an organisation. Foresight activities will not prevent companies from failing, but there are clear benefits to organisations challenging themselves with the potential future(s), in preparation for both formal and cultural strategic responses to changes driven by the uncertain environment.