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Edited by Laura Anna Costanzo and Robert Bradley MacKay
Chapter 4: The Symbolism of Foresight Processes in Organizations
4 The symbolism of foresight processes in organizations* Jan Oliver Schwarz Introduction Organizations face a more complex and dynamic environment than ever, one that is characterized by discontinuities and an uncertain future – a state that is most likely to continue. The major task for managers today is to make decisions, formulate strategies and execute strategic management systems in such an environment. It is obvious that the imperative of ‘predict and prepare’, as the foundation of the neoclassical school of management (Gharajedaghi 1999), is no longer appropriate for organizations in such an environment. In the past, many concepts were used to detect ‘weak signals’ of change, or trends, in the organizational environment. The goal of these concepts was to give organizations the chance to react to or act on these developments in advance. Other concepts have been developed to think about the future of an organization and incorporate that vision of the future into planning processes. These concepts include futures studies (Masini 1993; Cornish 2004), particularly the scenario technique (Fahey and Randall 1998), strategic issue management (Ansoﬀ 1980) or strategic early warning systems (Schwarz 2005), strategic foresight (Tsoukas and Shepherd 2004a), and, in a broader sense, competitive intelligence (Gilad 2004). Overall, these concepts are enjoying greater attention than ever from the corporate world (van der Heijden 2004; Schwarz 2006). However, referring to the ﬁeld of organizational symbolism, understanding that symbolism is the production of meaning through the use of symbols (Jones 1996) and that a symbol is a sign which denotes...
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