Doing collaborative futuring at an automotive company

Individual car models are planned, designed, manufactured, and used over a very long time. This means that the car industry has to be able to see past the most obvious trends of today in a very early stage of the product development cycle.

In order to stay ahead of the competition, Mercedes-Benz has run an ambitious foresight program for over three decades. Since 2017, the company has used FIBRES foresight software to collaborate on trends and to feed relevant future insights into R&D, innovation, and strategy.

The company has an interdisciplinary team working in its foresight and open innovation department called PIONEERING neXt. They are responsible for bringing in outside developments and trends into the company, making sense out of them, and providing actionable insights and inspirations.

In a company with thousands of employees, it can be hard to gather information in one place and to align people’s understanding about the future.

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To better facilitate this process, the team was looking for a platform that would enable a collaborative and nevertheless efficient way of working together on a global scale.

The foresight team found that most tools were good at one part of the trend research process, like scouting or sense-making or collaboration. Few tools were able to deliver everything they needed in one package.

Today, the company is using FIBRES daily in its trend research. FIBRES serves as the one single virtual place for scouting, saving and processing weak signals, for making sense of current developments and upcoming trends in a collaborative manner, and for sharing insights with the whole organization instantly.

With FIBRES, it’s possible to store, make sense of, and to share the most important insights about trend developments in one place, and to get the organization excited about the future.

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FIBRES helps make sense of future trends by automating certain parts of the process, and by providing a collaborative platform to work and communicate on.

Over 1.000 employees from all continents and all around the organization take part in adding interesting weak signals and future developments to the FIBRES database, curated by the foresight team and administered by futurist Sebastian Baumann. Further suggested signals are being brought intelligently onto the same FIBRES database from selected sources automatically.

People working with strategy, innovation management and product development have access to the system as well. They can now easily use all derived trend information for their daily work right away.

By using FIBRES as its trend research platform, Mercedes-Benz has been able to implement an integrated and collaborative model, where trend research and trend discussion are done together.

It enables people to find the most important signals and trends for their needs in a collaborative and nevertheless efficient manner.

Collecting information is only one part of the trend research process. It is the sense-making and trend communication that takes the most time. What exactly is the trend? Why is it relevant to your business? What are its implications? These are important questions to answer, and a purpose-built platform can help in that.

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Milla Lappalainen is head of marketing at FIBRES. She's excited to learn foresight best practices from the top organizations in the world already running their own foresight workflows and to share those learnings with others.

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