Conducting research on the future
What will the world look like in 20 years? Will artificial intelligence determine our everyday lives? Will one world power rule over other nations? Will anything change at all? The Corporate Foresight Team at Evonik deals with all these questions. Björn Theis, Head of Corporate Foresight, explains what foresight means at Evonik and how we can conduct research on the future.
What does Foresight mean?
Foresight is the ability of a company to recognize changes and trends as well as their opportunities and risks at an early stage and to describe the impact this change has on the company - it can be both positive and negative. Effective strategies and responses are then formulated.
How do you conduct research on these changes?
Our approach is to filter out what we call specialized focus topics and devote about a year to them. The work on these focused topics can be divided into three phases:
First, we conduct "environmental scanning", which means that we obtain all information we have on this key topic. We gain this information by many different people: We meet with internal and external experts and attend specialist conferences.
We then gather all the information, concentrate the data on new knowledge and analyze what this knowledge means for Evonik and the individual segments and who the addressees of this knowledge are within the company. It is then our task to make this new knowledge usable and accessible to Evonik employees. And for us that means: writing reports. We spend about two thirds of the year sitting in the office and writing reports.
Finally, we leave the office again and meet with those responsible within the company to pass on our newly acquired knowledge and shed light on the impacts on the affected areas and the strategy we have developed in response to the changes.
How exactly are you and your team developing this strategy?
Our goal is to question the obvious and identify significant innovations that will make a lasting difference to the world. Therefore, we methodically develop potential future scenarios with the help of what-if cases. From these, we then derive a single strategy so that Evonik is well prepared for the future, no matter which scenario actually occurs.
Find out more about Björn Theis and for which scenarios Evonik prepares for in detail.