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Untangling capabilities for managing the front end of innovation
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Sciences, Business Administration and Industrial Engineering. Luleå University of Technology. (Entrepreneurship and Innovation)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1390-1820
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Sciences, Business Administration and Industrial Engineering. (Entrepreneurship and Innovation)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3255-414X
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Sciences, Business Administration and Industrial Engineering. (Entrepreneurship and Innovation)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5464-2007
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Sciences, Business Administration and Industrial Engineering. (Entrepreneurship and Innovation)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8103-2519
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(English)In: Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

This article investigates the vital and often underemphasized front end of innovation. It aims to explore how firms utilize organizational capabilities to manage multiple sources of fuzziness (uncertainty, equivocality, and complexity). In so doing, we use the capability- and knowledge-based view to examine the use of firms’ capabilities to navigate the front end process from vague ideas towards corroborated product definition. In our qualitative case of seven manufacturing firms, we explore practices, methods, and routines for managing the front end. We explain that new product ideas can be classified according to different degrees of fuzziness, which implies that not all product ideas can or should be treated in the same way. In fact, certain capabilities are more important for managing the development of ideas at low (i.e. process management and idea refinement) and high (problem formulation and problem solution) levels of fuzziness. Ultimately, we suggest a theoretical framework that elucidates how firms use two distinct paths (i.e. tolerance-based or reduction-based) to transform early new product ideas into corroborated product definitions. In doing so, our results guide project members in matching the magnitude of knowledge problems with organizational capabilities and thereby increase front-end performance.

National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-68730OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ltu-68730DiVA, id: diva2:1205922
Available from: 2018-05-15 Created: 2018-05-15 Last updated: 2018-05-15
In thesis
1. Managing the Collaborative Front End of Innovation in Manufacturing Firms: Requirements, Capabilities, and Conditions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Managing the Collaborative Front End of Innovation in Manufacturing Firms: Requirements, Capabilities, and Conditions
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[sv]
Ledning av samarbeten vid innovation i tidigafaser : Förutsättningar, förmågor och implikationer
Abstract [en]

The front end of innovation is critical to innovative efforts in firms yet it remains to be poorly understood. This especially important since innovation efforts in the front end are becoming increasingly open in line with the era of open innovation. Although the literature on the front end of innovation is well developed, prior studies have largely focused on bilateral agreements and have overlooked conditions for collaborations with science-based partners (universities and research institutes). This is especially true for manufacturing firms, for which a continuous stream of new product ideas are a key source of competitiveness. To make things worse, the front end of innovation in this setting is often characterized by incongruent practices by partners, different magnitudes of fuzziness, and high risks in revealing new ideas. Developing new product definitions with different partners is thus a risky endeavor that may seriously compromise competitive advantages if mishandled. Therefore, there is a need for greater knowledge to facilitate the collaborative front end with different types of partners. Accordingly, the purpose of this dissertation is to understand how to manage the collaborative front end in manufacturing firms, with a particular focus on requirements, capabilities, and conditions.

To fulfill this research purpose, data on manufacturing firms were collected through four case studies and one survey. In total, this dissertation is based on empirical data from 81 interviews with R&D members across 10 medium-sized and large manufacturing firms, as well as a survey of 146 small and medium-sized manufacturing firms. Respondents were based in Brazil or Sweden. The key theories and literatures covered in this dissertation include coordination modes, control mechanisms, organizational routines, the resource-based view, and appropriability mechanisms.

This dissertation makes numerous theoretical contributions to the front-end literature. First, it extends the front-end literature by presenting the concepts of systematic idea generation and fuzziness assessment as a prerequisite for improving front-end performance. Second, this dissertation extends the front-end literature by listing the collaboration conditions that help firms cooperate with science-based partners. By collaborating with science-based partners, firms can access (unpublished) codified and tacit scientific knowledge, enabling them to rapidly build on the latest research findings. The findings suggest particular practices that can be applied to reduce cultural differences and diminish goal divergence among project members. Third, the findings in this dissertation enrich the front-end literature by describing a set of detailed practices to streamline the involvement of different types of partners using diverse protective practices. Fourth, it suggests a theoretical framework that describes how to manage the collaborative front end of innovation. The theoretical framework explains how manufacturing firms can use their organizational capabilities to develop new product ideas efficiently and safely. In particular, the framework discerns the capabilities that are necessary to explore mechanisms, practices, and routines in terms of divergent thinking, external expertise, and multiple opinions. Altogether, these contributions assist firms to better manage collaborative front end. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Luleå: Luleå University of Technology, 2018. p. 250
Series
Doctoral thesis / Luleå University of Technology 1 jan 1997 → …, ISSN 1402-1544
National Category
Business Administration Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified
Research subject
Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-68732 (URN)978-91-7790-152-5 (ISBN)978-91-7790-153-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-06-19, A109, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, 09:30 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-05-16 Created: 2018-05-15 Last updated: 2018-05-28Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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