Foresight at the Service of Innovation
Chapter 6 written by Nathalie Popiolek, in Futures, The Great Turn (July 2023)
Volume 18 - Innovation and Technology,
Edited by Carine Dartiguepeyrou, University Catholique of Lille, France
and Michel Saloff-Coste, University Catholique of Lille, France
In the same way, as there are many futures, not just one, there are many ways to conceive and practice foresight. The challenge of the great turning point of our civilization is to free ourselves from our prejudices to imagine and build desirable futures. The process is, by nature, ethical and prospective.
In a complex, uncertain, and geopolitically transforming world, we must be open to the diversity of cultures and the different perceptions of the future. This requires us to reflect on the purpose and means of our societies.
The book Futures proposes different cultural and ethical views on civilizational transformation by offering a rare, transnational panorama of future visions in a European, American, and Chinese context. Through numerous examples, this book illustrates how foresight is practiced and what this can achieve in strategic terms.
We had the honor of sharing our vision with this international panel. Our chapter, part of the second part of the book, Foresight at the Service of Action, is entitled Foresight at the Service of Innovation.
What is the chapter about?
This chapter aims to show the contribution of the foresight approach in the decision process that leads the company to innovate. After showing the links between foresight and decision in uncertainty, we choose to focus on the strategy of innovation within companies because they bring a large proportion of the innovations to the market and into society. Some have a strike force in terms of financial resources that is greater than that of actual States – think of the power of GAFAM, NATU, SpaceX, etc., or even BATX on the Chinese market.
At the end of the chapter, we explore the singular contribution of foresight to “think differently” and innovate in a disruptive way.
6.1. The art of deciding in an uncertain world
6.1.1. The essence and role of foresight
6.1.2. A holistic and operational approach
6.2. Innovation strategy in companies in the context of transition
6.2.1. The new industrial and Societal situation
6.2.2. The different innovation strategies
6.3. Foresight and support for innovation in companies
6.3.1. Analysis of the innovative ecosystem
6.3.2. Consequences of the innovative investment
6.3.3. Foresight approach and radical innovation
We conclude that we are in the process of experiencing a new industrial revolution where companies are creating value in other ways. They innovate extensively in user services, which requires anticipating new behaviors. Industrial sectors are evolving towards highly intertwined business ecosystems that require the ability to manage complexity. For exploring the unknown, companies must “think the unthinkable” and foresight could help them to be creative.
However, although it is valuable for exploring the unknown, foresight is not limited to a creative (science fiction-type) exercise. It is a strategic management approach: the company expects it to help it make decisions in an uncertain and complex world, and not just to be a source of new ideas.
So, we insist on the need for the company to take a step back when it ventures away from the usual schemes to bring innovations to the market. It is indeed its responsibility to broaden its field of vision beyond short-term competitiveness, to move towards an innovation that is responsible and sustainable by preserving the environment, as well as employment, social peace, and community life. It will not achieve this alone: it is a collective task and commitment. Foresight methods must therefore include a large panel of “experts”. Foresight at the service of innovation must be ambitious to be truly useful.