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Ideas for new products often refine and gain momentum through informal discussion during development work, a fact which forces firms to balance too gentle and too harsh screening. Another balancing act concerns formalization.

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The basic proposition is that formalization is good because it facilitates transparency, order and predictability. On the other hand, in striving to enforce effectiveness, formalization also risks inhibiting innovation and flexibility. Even if the empirical evidence is still scarce, the relationship between formality and performance seems to obey an inverted U-shaped curve. This means that both too little and too much formality has a negative effect on performance.

From this follows that firms need to carefully consider the level of formalization they impose on the fuzzy front end. A third balancing act concerns the trade-off between uncertainty and equivocality reduction.

Management of the Fuzzy Front End of Innovation

Market and technological uncertainty can, and need, often be reduced through environmental scanning and increased information processing in the development team, but more information often increase the level of equivocality. An equivocal situation is one where multiple meanings exist, and such a situation implies that a firm needs to construct, cohere or enact a reasonable interpretation to be able to move on, rather than to engage in information seeking and analysis.

Therefore, firms need to balance their need to reduce uncertainty with the need to reduce equivocality, as trying to reduce one often implies increasing the other. Furthermore, firms need to balance the need for allowing for flexibility in the product definition, with the need to push it to closure.

A key objective in the fuzzy front end is a clear, robust and unambiguous product definition because such a definition ensures efficiency and facilitates the subsequent development phase. However, product properties, features and attributes often need to be changed during development as market needs change or problems with underlying technologies are experienced. Finally, a final balancing act concerns the trade-off between the competing virtues of innovation and resource efficiency.

In essence, this concerns balancing competing value orientations, where innovation and creativity in the front end are enabled by organizational slack and an emphasis on people management, while resource efficiency is enabled by discipline and an emphasis on process management. In addition, the fuzzy front end process needs to be adapted to the type of product under development. For physical products, different logics apply to assembled and non-assembled products respectively.

Emerging research shows that a third logic applies to the development of new service concepts. This short article advices managers and other persons involved with innovation to pay particular attention to the factors and activities which precede formal development efforts. Firms that want to increase their proficiency in the front end should do their utmost to identify individual success factors and to obtain proficiency in these, to integrate these factors into a coherent whole, to master multiple balancing acts, and to recognize that the front end process is affected by multiple contingencies, unique to each firm.

To conclude, managing the fuzzy front end is indeed no easy task, but can have an enormous positive impact on performance for those firms that succeed. His research interests mainly concern organizational change and renewal. This interest is currently expressed in research on management of the fuzzy front end, management of eco-innovations, and managerial behavior in fast-growing firms.


  1. La vita e le avventure di Robinson Crusoe (Classici) (Italian Edition).
  2. The Problem with the Fuzzy Front End.
  3. Strategic innovation and the fuzzy front end •;
  4. Table of Contents.
  5. Managing Controversies in the Fuzzy Front End;
  6. Marianne the Mermaid (Book 5) - Mermaids Magic.

Success factors for managing the fuzzy front end In order to increase knowledge on how the fuzzy front end can be better managed, we conducted a large-scale survey of the empirical literature on the fuzzy front end. The presence of idea visionaries or product champions. Such persons contribute to firms struggle to overcome stability and inertia and thus secure the progress of an emerging product concept.

What In The World Is The “Fuzzy Front End” Of Innovation

An adequate degree of formalization. Formalization promotes stability and reduces uncertainty. The fuzzy front end process should be explicit, widely known among members of the organization, characterized by clear decision-making responsibilities, and contain specific performance measures. Idea refinement and adequate screening of ideas.

Firms need mechanisms to separate good ideas from bad ones, and need also to screen ideas by means of both business and feasibility analysis. Early customer involvement. Customers can help to enact clear project objectives, reduce uncertainty and equivocality, and also facilitate the evolution and evaluation of a product concept. Internal cooperation among functions and departments. Cooperation among functions and departments also creates legitimacy for a new concept and facilitates the subsequent development phase.

Information processing other than cross-functional integration and early customer involvement. Firms need to pay attention to product ideas of competitors in order to strategically position their emerging product concepts. They also need to pay attention to legally mandated issues in relation to their product concepts. Senior management involvement. A pre-development team needs support from senior management to succeed, and senior management can also align individual activities which cut across functional boundaries.

Preliminary technology assessment. Technology assessment in the front end means asking whether the product can be developed, what technical solutions will be required, and at what cost. Firms need also to judge whether the product concept, once turned into a product, can be manufactured.

Front end innovation

Alignment between NPD and strategy. New concepts must capitalize on the core competencies of their firms, and synergy among projects is important. An early and well-defined product definition. Product concepts are representations of the goals for the development process. A product definition includes a product concept, but in addition provides information about target markets, customer needs, competitors, technology, resources, etc.

A well-defined product definition facilitates the subsequent development phase. A minimum viable product has just those features that allow the product to be deployed, and no more. The product is typically deployed to a subset of possible customers, such as early adopters that are thought to be more forgiving, more likely to give feedback, and able to grasp a product vision from an early prototype or marketing information.

It is a strategy targeted at avoiding building products that customers do not want, that seeks to maximize the information learned about the customer per dollar spent. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article has multiple issues. Please help improve it or discuss these issues on the talk page. Learn how and when to remove these template messages.

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Strategic innovation and the fuzzy front end

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