Disruptive technology scanning. Passive screening versus hands-on experimenting
Technology scanning is the activity to gain insight on technologies outside a company's technological and market competences. This has traditionally been done in a rather passive way since such technologies rarely had a strong influence on companies. With the emergence of more and more disruptive technologies, correct and fast evaluation of trends and technologies outside the companys competences has gained importance and has emerged as a key success factor for surviving trends such as digitalization. Thus, companies are starting to get more actively involved in technologies even in the stage of establishing first contact with a technology. Traditionally, such immersive activities have been done only after defining a technology field to be of importance as a technology search field of the company. Such more immersive activities for unknown technology fields consume resources and risk losing focus on such defined and identified search fields. This paper gives recommendations on how to balance the resource level of initial analysis of upcoming trends while ensuring proper evaluation of potentially disruptive technologies based on the companys strategy regarding the use of external technologies. The paper is based a literature analysis of existing case studies in technology scanning, corporate foresight and corporate technology incubators on the one hand, and on the other hand on observations from several industry projects on evaluating new technologies (particularly in the field of digitalization) ranging in immersiveness from the commissioning of trend analysis reports to active experimentation with the technology in topic-open incubators. The observations are condensed into model architectures of technology scanning which consider the various generic goals of companies regarding the introduction of new technology fields. We find that the needed level of immersiveness is not a factor of company size or market factors, but rather of strategy and timing. The more a company wants to position itself as an innovation leader and the later it becomes aware of the potential importance of trends, the more immersive should its first contact with a technology be. We observe that for companies far removed from the considered technologies (for instance, traditional industry from internet of things technology) experimentation or other immersion may even be needed before the organization has the capability to clearly define and comprehend traditional search fields regarding the new technology as otherwise the scope cannot be focused on the relevant aspects for the company.