Incremental product development : four essays on activities, resources, and actors
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Most innovations are incremental, and incremental innovations play an important role for the firm. In spite of that, traditional NPD studies most often emphasize moderate to highly innovative product development projects. In this dissertation the overall objective is to increase our understanding of incremental innovation. The dissertation is organized around four essays that emphasize different aspects of incremental innovation. NPD in hotels, retailers and food manufacturers (e.g. dairy and fish) have been investigated. The different essays vary in accordance to both methodology and theoretical platform, and illustrate how my own understanding has evolved throughout the research process. Open- and closed-ended questions, emerging and predetermined approaches, and quantitative and qualitative data and analyses were utilized. The theoretical frame of reference is first and foremost traditional NPD research (here labeled the Cooper school). In addition to this school, literature from the IMP approach has been utilized. Other theories, such as transaction cost analysis (TCA) and the resource-based view of the firm (RBV), have been drawn upon in particular cases. One theoretical contribution of the dissertation lies in its attempt to illustrate how the different actors’ access to resources influences incremental innovation. In essay two and three we highlight that actors with access to different resources conduct different NPD activities, thus access to resources influences how actors organize the NPD process. Another contribution of the dissertation is the attention drawn to an actor’s utilization of resources in incremental innovation. We emphasized the manager’s role in incremental innovation by exploring resource friction. The numbers of resource combinations possible are infinite, and the opportunities offered are only limited by the manager’s thoughts. Accordingly, a manager’s lack of imagination is a strong restrictor of innovation. Finally, one contribution of the dissertation lies in its identification of the interplay between activities, resources and actors in incremental innovation. Resources in NPD can be created, not only allocated and utilized. The conventional perspective of resources as scarce and limited is broadened to include the possibilities associated with new resource combinations. Incremental innovation is a dynamic process where access to resources, utilization of resources, and creation of new resources influence what activities are conducted, and visa versa.