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A conceptual framework of generative customization as an approach to product innovation and fulfillment

Jack Buffington (Department of Industrial Marketing, e‐Commerce and Logistics, Lulea University of Technology, Lulea, Sweden)
Donald McCubbrey (Department of Information Technology and Electronic Commerce, Daniels College of Business, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado, USA)

European Journal of Innovation Management

ISSN: 1460-1060

Article publication date: 2 August 2011




The purpose of this paper is to address the problem in research of a lack of a holistic conceptual framework related to incremental and discontinuous innovation. Too often, the term “innovation” is used without an understanding of how it can be applied in a product design and supply chain fulfillment system. In this study, the goal is to develop a holistic “innovation continuum” to treat innovation as a complex adaptive system (CAS).


A comprehensive literature review was conducted, and from it, four propositions and a conceptual framework were developed.


The authors determined that an “innovation continuum” can be established through the use of a complex adaptive system. Two, incremental innovation is determined to possess adaptive qualities, and can be enhanced through the use of collaboration and evolutionary algorithms. Three, discontinuous innovation is established as a creative process enabled through expert designers, and improved through the use of generative design. Next, a supply chain system for incremental innovation can be assisted by the use of adaptive systems, but it is not proven that a generative customization system (for discontinuous innovation) can be improved through the use of a CAS.


The paper has established an “innovation continuum” linking incremental and discontinuous innovation within one holistic system. It establishes the use of evolutionary algorithms to improve the viability of incremental innovation, and generative design for discontinuous innovation. Finally, the concept of generative customization as an end to end product design and supply chain fulfillment solution for discontinuous innovation is established.



Buffington, J. and McCubbrey, D. (2011), "A conceptual framework of generative customization as an approach to product innovation and fulfillment", European Journal of Innovation Management, Vol. 14 No. 3, pp. 388-403.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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