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Managing the Collaborative Front End of Innovation in Manufacturing Firms: Requirements, Capabilities, and Conditions
Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Sciences, Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1390-1820
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The front end is a phase of the innovation process that starts with a new product idea and completes when firms have developed a new product definition. This phase is critical for many manufacturing firms. Front-end outcomes is indeed critical to overall product success, market penetration, time to-market, and financial performance. During this phase, new products are born as ideas, and subsequently move through screening, project definition, and business analysis. However, this phase remains poorly understood in the era of more open innovation (e.g., interfirm collaboration). Although the literature on front end of innovation is well developed, prior studies have largely focused on bilateral agreements and have overlooked conditions for collaboration with science-based partners (universities and research institutes). This is especially true for manufacturing firms, for which a continuous stream of new product ideas is a key source of competitiveness. To make things worse, the front end of innovation conducted with external actors involved is often characterized by incongruent practices by partners, different magnitudes of fuzziness, and considerable risks in revealing new ideas. Developing new product definitions with different partners is thus a risky endeavor if mishandled that may seriously compromise competitive advantages of firms. Therefore, greater knowledge is required to facilitate the collaborative front end with different types of partners. Against this background, 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 literature covered include coordination modes, control mechanisms, organizational routines, the resource-based view, and appropriability mechanisms.

This dissertation makes several contributions. 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 lists collaboration conditions that help firms cooperate better with science-based partners. By collaborating with science-based partners, firms  can access codified and tacit scientific knowledge, enabling them to rapidly build on the latest research insights. The findings suggest particular practices that can be applied to reduce cultural differences and diminish goal divergence among project members. Third, this dissertation describes a set of detailed practices to streamline the involvement of different types of partners using diverse appropriability mechanisms. Ultimately, a theoretical framework is developed to describe how to manage the collaborative front end of innovation. The theoretical framework explains how manufacturing firms can use their organizational capabilities to efficiently and safely develop new product ideas. In particular, the framework identifies the necessary capabilities to explore mechanisms, practices, and routines in terms of divergent thinking, external expertise, and multiple opinions. Altogether, these contributions will 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, ISSN 1402-1544
Keywords [en]
front end of innovation, collaboration
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-38383Libris ID: 22692620ISBN: 978-91-7790-152-5 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7790-153-2 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hh-38383DiVA, id: diva2:1264541
Public defence
2018-06-19, A109, Universitetsområdet, Luleå, 09:30 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-02-08 Created: 2018-11-20 Last updated: 2019-02-08Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The front end as a process: the case of a multinational Brazilian firm
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The front end as a process: the case of a multinational Brazilian firm
2016 (English)In: Gestão e Produção, ISSN 0104-530X, Vol. 23, no 3, p. 459-472Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article examines the context of the front-end process in a multinational Brazilian firm that manufactures electric motors. By adopting an in-depth case study method, this article evaluates the front end as a strategic and tactical process within the Brazilian firm studied. The competitive arena, consisting mainly of Asian competitors, encouraged the Brazilian firm to review the stages of the front-end process and include new activities, such as (i) involving abstractive practices in the first stages; (ii) developing cross-functional capabilities in the research and development department; (iii) adopting tear-down activities of competitors’ products concerning all business segments; and (iv) defining a priori the boundary conditions of financial constraints.

Abstract [pt]

Este artigo analisa as configurações do processo de captação de novas oportunidades para o desenvolvimento de produtos numa indústria multinacional de origem brasileira fabricante de Motores Elétricos Industriais, ganhadora do prêmio FINEP de inovação. Numa abordagem qualitativa, foi estudada a evolução do processo em níveis estratégicos e táticos, desde sua fundação em 1970, buscando investigar oportunidades de aprimoramento à luz dos modelos teóricos. Os resultados demonstram a necessidade de um novo paradigma organizacional que possibilite novas orientações à captação de oportunidades. A saúde financeira e a capacidade técnica da empresa lhe asseguraram posição de destaque no cenário internacional. No entanto, as mudanças no contexto oriundas em especial no mercado chinês apontam para a necessidade de uma reformulação do processo de captação de novas oportunidades. Considerando o modelo teórico adotado, constataram-se as seguintes oportunidades de melhoria: (i) aprimoramento da fase inicial para uma etapa mais criativa, abstrata, multidisciplinar e com perspectiva de longo prazo; (ii) desenvolvimento de habilidades multifuncionais pelos departamentos de pesquisa e desenvolvimento; (iii) análise do potencial tecnológico dos concorrentes com base em práticas de tear-down para todos os segmentos de negócio; e (iv) indicação a priori de macrodiretivas pelo grupo diretor.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sao Paulo: Associacao Brasileira de Engenharia de Producao (A B E P R O), 2016
Keywords
Front end, Capturing of new opportunities, New product development, Innovation management, Front-end, Captação de novas oportunidades, Desenvolvimento de novos produtos, Gestão da inovação
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-38165 (URN)10.1590/0104-530x1134-15 (DOI)2-s2.0-84990818385 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2018-10-16 Created: 2018-10-16 Last updated: 2018-11-22Bibliographically approved
2. Managing interorganizational technology development: Project management practices for market‐ and science‐based partnerships
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Managing interorganizational technology development: Project management practices for market‐ and science‐based partnerships
2017 (English)In: Creativity and Innovation Management, ISSN 0963-1690, E-ISSN 1467-8691, Vol. 26, no 2, p. 115-127Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Firms are increasingly relying on collaborating with external partners to drive technology development. Many firms struggle with managing the inherently uncertain and ambiguous technology development process, especially with external actors involved, because they may not have or share the same project management practices concerning coordination and control activities. To address this gap, this study examines appropriate project management practices for market-based and science‐based partnerships in three large technology‐intensive firms. Our results suggest that interorganizational technology development is problematic because firms lack sufficient partner understanding and struggle with aligning their project management practices with those of their partners. To address these problems, we identify project management practices of coordination and control to fit the contingencies of each type of partner collaboration. Our results provide implications for theory and managerial practices related to managing interorganizational technology development. © 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-38166 (URN)10.1111/caim.12207 (DOI)000404288900002 ()2-s2.0-85019114880 (Scopus ID)
Conference
16th International CINET Conference16th International CINET Conference, Pursuing Innovation Leadership, 13-15 September, 2015, Stockholm, SWEDEN
Funder
Ragnar Söderbergs stiftelse
Note

Funding Agency: Brazilian government 

Available from: 2018-10-16 Created: 2018-10-16 Last updated: 2018-11-22Bibliographically approved
3. Untangling capabilities for managing the front end of innovation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Untangling capabilities for managing the front end of innovation
Show others...
(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:nbn:se:hh:diva-38866 (URN)
Note

As manuscript in thesis.

Available from: 2018-05-15 Created: 2019-02-08 Last updated: 2019-02-08
4. Managing collaborative ideation: The role of formal and informal appropriability mechanisms
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Managing collaborative ideation: The role of formal and informal appropriability mechanisms
2018 (English)In: The International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, ISSN 1554-7191, E-ISSN 1555-1938, Vol. 15, no 1, p. 97-118Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Collaborative ideation is a key practice for innovation. Implementing suitable appropriability mechanisms during this collaborative ideation is a necessary yet difficult task. This difficulty owes to a high level of uncertainty and low level of codification because partners work on loosely defined concepts that may change during the collaboration. Firms can employ several appropriability mechanisms to protect their knowledge. Examples include patents, copyright, legal agreements, document management, lead time, secrecy and complexity. However, the best time to apply each mechanism remains unclear, and few empirical studies have explored this issue. This study is based on exploratory case studies of three manufacturing firms. The goal is to identify which appropriability mechanisms are pertinent at each phase of collaborative ideation and how they influence the effectiveness of protection. The results of the analysis lead to the development of a model describing the managerial practices that influence the effectiveness of protection. The results also lead to a set of research propositions to define when each appropriability mechanism is most likely to be used. Overall, this research contributes to the discussion of how to integrate formal and informal appropriability mechanisms for safe collaborative ideation. © 2018, The Author(s).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
New York, NY: Springer-Verlag New York, 2018
Keywords
open innovation, collaborative ideation, collaboration phases, appropriability mechanisms, intellectual property
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-38168 (URN)10.1007/s11365-018-0544-1 (DOI)2-s2.0-85055875020 (Scopus ID)
Note

Funding: Capes Foundation within the Ministry of Education, Brazil (grant n. BEX 001018/2014-00).

Available from: 2018-10-16 Created: 2018-10-16 Last updated: 2019-03-26Bibliographically approved
5. Idea generation and open innovation in SMEs: When does market‐based collaboration pay off most?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Idea generation and open innovation in SMEs: When does market‐based collaboration pay off most?
2019 (English)In: Creativity and Innovation Management, ISSN 0963-1690, E-ISSN 1467-8691, Vol. 28, no 1, p. 113-123Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Small‐ and medium‐sized enterprises (SMEs) largely depend on proficient idea generation activities to improve their front‐end innovation performance, yet the liabilities of newness and smallness often hamper SMEs' ability to benefit from systematic idea generation. To compensate for these liabilities, many SMEs adopt an open innovation approach by collaborating with market‐based partners such as customers and suppliers. This study investigates the relationship between SMEs' systematic idea generation and front‐end performance and investigates the moderating role of market‐based partnership for SMEs. Drawing on a survey of 146 Swedish manufacturing SMEs, this study provides two key contributions. First, the systematic idea generation and front‐end performance relationship in SMEs is non‐linear. Accordingly, higher levels of front-end performance are achieved when idea generation activities are highly systematic. Second, the returns from higher levels of systematic idea generation are positively moderated by market‐based partnerships. Thus, external cooperation with customers and suppliers pays off most toward front‐end performance when SMEs have highly systematic idea generation processes. These results indicate a contingency perspective on the role of external partnerships. They also have implications for research into the front‐end of innovation and open innovation in the context of SMEs. © 2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2019
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-38167 (URN)10.1111/caim.12274 (DOI)2-s2.0-85052629435 (Scopus ID)
Funder
VINNOVA
Note

Funding: CAPES & VINNOVA

Available from: 2018-10-16 Created: 2018-10-16 Last updated: 2019-02-28Bibliographically approved

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