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Fuzzy Front End of Innovation Process Management in High Technology Companies: Knowledge Sharing in Virtual Communities of Practice.

RAPHAEL, LEONARD,CHIJIOKE,CHARLES (2017) Fuzzy Front End of Innovation Process Management in High Technology Companies: Knowledge Sharing in Virtual Communities of Practice. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis seeks to examine the challenges inherent in creating and managing knowledge at the front-end stages of innovation. Specifically, the work develops new knowledge to understand how the formation of Virtual Community of Practice (VCoP) informs the front end of New Product Design (NPD) and the use of uncodified knowledge to achieve Fuzzy Front End (FFE) innovation outcomes. The ‘fuzziness’ comes from the fact that this cannot be codified and therefore predicted. This is relevant because a lot of new product failures have been attributed to the lack of management at the Fuzzy Front End of Innovation (FFEI) and the technologies at play in this stage. It is for these reasons that the FFE is a very important aspect of potentially successful innovations (Coates, 2009).

Studies have shown that ‘speed to market’ and ‘product quality’ play a role in the positive impact of investment at the FFE phase on subsequent profitability (McNally et al., 2011). This is particularly significant, as it has also been established that expenses incurred in the later stages of the innovation process do not have any significant effect on the profitability of new product innovations (McNally et al., 2011). The ‘fuzziness’ and intangible nature of the FFE phase of NPD creates and adds to the complexities and challenges experienced in the management of these activities. Scholars have therefore called for a richer understanding of this phase through more extensive research at the FFE to advance the innovation management discipline as a whole (Bertels et al., 2011).

In order to identify the problem areas at the FFE, the researcher has uncovered recurring themes and concepts in the knowledge management field, observing a positive connection between tacit knowledge, knowledge transfer and Situated Learning Theory (SLT) of Community of Practice (CoP) at the FEI within high technology organisations. This is supported by empirical evidence, which states that individuals or groups with more social connections are more likely to be innovative, creative and share knowledge than isolated people or groups (Bjork & Magnusson, 2009). This in turn points to the knowledge transmission benefits of a CoP, particularly in relation to the transfer of tacit knowledge. However, understanding remains undeveloped theoretically, conceptually and empirically with regard to how a CoP in a physical environment, and in particular within a VCoP in a virtual environment, can operate effectively to resolve problems at the FFE of the innovation stage.
Findings from the research suggest that the FEI should not be structured, and that businesses need to build an enabling environment to sustain the FFEI. Innovation on the front or back end should not be left to itself either, it has to be managed or governed in some way. In order to develop and manage VCoP at the FFI, this research recommends a sustainable, flexible and adaptable innovation process. This may be understood as creating a vehicle for the innovation process filtered through several gates where all experiences and the innovation journey itself is properly scrutinised. It is further proposed that this approach can also assist in the mitigation of risk.

Finally, the use of virtual communication tools such as emails, online repository, virtual workspace and video conferencing for VCoP activities has become standard working practice for many businesses. Organisations who pay close attention to finding better ways to utilise, adapt and apply these tools to specific VCoP projects will be more likely achieve positive results.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Business Administration
Keywords:Fuzzy Front End, Innovation, New Product Design, Virtual Community of Practice, Community of Practice, front-end stages of innovation, uncodified knowledge, Fuzzy Front End of Innovation, Situated Learning Theory, tacit knowledge,virtual communication, Virtual communities, Stage-Gate Process.
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Economics, Finance and Business, School of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:24 Jan 2017 08:50

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