This article aims to investigate how R&D employees use their social networks to acquire user information and how this information is used in the development of new products.
A single case study was conducted within a business unit at a multinational medical technology company. Data were collected through a mixed method.
The results show that many R&D employees lack social networks through which they can acquire information about the users’ needs. However, some R&D employees establish cost-efficient relationships to people with a direct experience of using the company’s products. These relationships are established over time and are often used in a rather informal way to acquire user information. Moreover, the results show how R&D employees are purposefully complementing these relationships with more occasional interactions with people who hold direct and indirect use experiences.
As with most single-case studies, it will be important to replicate this investigation in other contexts to clarify the generalizability of the findings.
The article shows how important it is that management provides R&D employees with opportunities to establish, nurture and utilize relationships conducive to information about the users’ needs. The article provides some advice on how this can be accomplished.
This is one of the first articles that clearly explain how R&D employees use their social networks to acquire user information for the development of new products.
The work presented in this article has been financed by the Swedish Governmental Agency for Innovation Systems VINNOVA.
Wadell, C., Björk, J. and Magnusson, M. (2014), "How do R&D employees use their social networks to acquire user information?", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 18 No. 5, pp. 919-936. https://doi.org/10.1108/JKM-06-2014-0245Download as .RIS
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