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Beyond Managing Uncertainty: Insights From Studying Equivocality in the Fuzzy Front End of Product and Process Innovation Projects

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3 Author(s)
Johan Frishammar ; Centre for Management of Innovation and Technology in Process Industry (Promote), Luleå University of Technology, Luleå, Sweden ; Henrik Florén ; Joakim Wincent

Previous research has shown uncertainty reduction to be critical in the fuzzy front end of the innovation process, but little attention has been given to the equally important concept of equivocality, although it is a defining characteristic of many front-end projects. To address this research gap, this paper report the results from a longitudinal, multiple case study of four large companies oriented to both product and process innovation. First, our results show that both uncertainty and equivocality is more effectively reduced in successful front-end projects than in unsuccessful ones. Second, the negative consequences of equivocality appear more critical to front-end performance than the consequences following uncertainty. Third, our results show that uncertainty and equivocality are reduced sequentially in successful projects and simultaneously in unsuccessful projects. Finally, uncertainty and equivocality takes longer time to reduce in process innovation projects than in product innovation projects, which is a consequence of the systemic nature of process innovation. Altogether, these findings provide strong implications for managing front-end projects more proficiently.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management  (Volume:58 ,  Issue: 3 )