The “fuzzy front end” of new product development (NPD) is characterized by considerable uncertainty and ambiguity, but detailed studies of ambiguity specifically related to NPD are missing. This paper aims to establish a classification of ambiguity in NPD processes.
The authors' research design is a holistic multiple‐case‐study design with the NPD project as the unit of analysis. A model is developed through a grounded theory approach, using qualitative analysis of case data from four medical‐device companies.
The authors present a model that classifies ambiguity along two dimensions: subject and source. The subjects of ambiguity include product, market, process, and organizational resources, whereas the sources of ambiguity include multiplicity, novelty, validity, and reliability.
As the study is based on just four case studies in a single industry segment, further research is needed to determine the model's wider applicability. Further research is also suggested, exploring how and in what contexts ambiguity should be managed as a balance between reducing or sustaining it.
The model presented helps practitioners to better understand the origins and character of ambiguity in NPD, thereby improving their ability to manage it in their NPD projects.
The model provides an improved theoretical understanding of ambiguity as a component of “fuzziness” in NPD by providing a detailed account of how ambiguity is related to specific elements of the NPD process in terms of where and why it occurs.
Brun, E., Steinar Saetre, A. and Gjelsvik, M. (2009), "Classification of ambiguity in new product development projects", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 62-85. https://doi.org/10.1108/14601060910928175Download as .RIS
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