Beyond the Now: Foresight Initiatives for Small Businesses

Date: 05.12.2023
In the pursuit of envisioning a future landscape for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), our initial endeavour was to design a foresight workshop. The canvas of creativity unfurled before us, as our ambition soared to connect with as many SMEs as possible. Yet, the path was not without its challenges.

Through early discussions and a mood-survey, we discerned the elusive nature of our actual target audience — the SMEs. Their world, consumed by the demands of daily operations, posed a formidable hurdle. Undeterred, we pressed on, driven by the vision of imparting invaluable insights and encouraging decision-makers to join the conversation.

Our chosen stage was set at KEBA, a location not merely for presentations but an immersive experience — Innospace, a testament to innovation. Three presentations unfolded, carefully curated to spark the interest of SMEs, with the promise of a foresight workshop to follow. A guided tour through the captivating Innospace was the grand finale.

Reality, however, had its say. Only a handful of SMEs, six to be precise, out of our targeted 25, graced the event. The workshop, a mirror reflecting our ambitions, also revealed limitations in the chosen locale. It became clear; reaching SMEs was no small feat.

The struggles weren’t confined to the smaller enterprises. Even large companies, with their expansive reach, faced challenges in integrating strategic foresight into their corporate DNA. The dichotomy was evident — individual minds grappling with these futuristic concepts, yet the organizational fabric lacking the necessary threads.

In the heart of this endeavor, we recognized a crucial need. Small businesses, caught up in their daily routines, need outside help and encouragement to think about the future. Big companies, who control supply chains, can be the ones to provide that help and influence. By setting expectations and nurturing their SME suppliers, a collaborative journey towards future readiness could begin.

We realized that knowledge was crucial. There was a lack of understanding all around. Practical examples and a broader awareness of successful projects were the missing keystones. The narrative weaved into a call for action — to provide more information, to illustrate the advantages, and to foster awareness along the entire value chain.

As the curtain fell on this first act, our conclusion was clear. The SME landscape lacked the essential foresight and future-oriented perspective. The journey ahead demanded a concerted effort to impart knowledge, to awaken awareness, and to strategically enlist the support of larger enterprises in sculpting a future where SMEs thrived in anticipation rather than reaction.

Written by: Fabian Matthias Freund, Business Upper Austria – OÖ Wirtschaftsagentur GmbH