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The wicked problems of supplier-driven innovation

Poul Rind Christensen (Department of Entrepreneurship and Relationship Management, University of Southern Denmark, Kolding, Denmark)
Kristin B. Munksgaard (Department of Entrepreneurship and Relationship Management, University of Southern Denmark, Kolding, Denmark)
Anne Louise Bang (Design School Kolding, Kolding, Denmark)

Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing

ISSN: 0885-8624

Article publication date: 3 July 2017




Suppliers stand in the wake of a new diversified strategic momentum in the global production network, where innovation is growing in importance. The term “supplier-driven innovation” is coined in contrast to the current hype on user-driven innovation; this paper aims to discuss the wicked problems for suppliers to actively engage in customers’ innovations.


A qualitative case study of eight Danish suppliers.


The wicked problem of supplier-driven innovation is generated by two intertwined constraints: the ability to engage customers in the co-creation of attractive offers and the ability to include technological knowledge and capabilities residing in the upstream network of suppliers.

Research limitations/implications

This research combines an industrial network approach with perspectives generated through design management literature aiming to develop an innovative space for co-creation across diverse organizational, technological and managerial domains in the global production system.

Practical implications

To participate in supplier-driven innovation, partners need to co-create an innovative space for joint development.


Co-creation enriches the understanding of the diversity of forms of interaction, ranging from information and knowledge exchange and mutual adaptation processes to experimentation with processes of co-creation. Through a complementary view on how suppliers co-create innovative spaces of action in the upstream spaces of technical knowledge as well as the downstream spaces of preferential needs, the research contributes insights about the characteristics of the wicked problems that suppliers need to handle in bridging and expanding these spaces for innovative actions.



Christensen, P.R., Munksgaard, K.B. and Bang, A.L. (2017), "The wicked problems of supplier-driven innovation", Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 32 No. 6, pp. 836-847.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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