Scenario thinking in product innovation teams: A practice approach
Sarpong, D. (2010) Scenario thinking in product innovation teams: A practice approach. PhD, University of the West of England.
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The overall strategic emphasis on new product development is reflected in the exploration and exploitation of value relevant for sustainable competitive advantage. However, traditional management approaches have been inadequate in meeting this strategic imperative taking into consideration the high rate of failure in the creation and capture of sustainable value from new product innovations. Scenario thinking by virtue of its ability to help improve foresight, learning and the probing of the unknown future may serve as a strategic management approach that could help product innovation teams to explore and exploit the much needed value from their innovations. Scenario thinking in this thesis refers to the use of scenario narratives to stimulate actions in the immediate present (also informed by the past) about the possible future aimed at improving understanding of the cost, returns, efficiency and all the requisite information related to the creation and capture of value from new product innovation. From a transdisciplinary perspective this research takes on the phenomenological treatment of practices as advanced by the contemporary turn to ‘practice’ to explore scenario thinking in product innovation teams. It adopts a case based approach with three software organisations and four of their new product development projects serving as the empirical research sites. With emphasis on the meso-level, the product innovation teams represent the sociological level of inquiry with emphasis placed on their everyday practices and their relationships in context. Data for the empirical inquiry were chiefly collected using the qualitative methods of ethnographic interviews, non-participant observation and the analysis of organisational and project archival documents. The thesis makes a contribution to knowledge in three main areas. Firstly, it unpacks scenario thinking, in the form of strategizing and foresighting and how it manifest in the actions of the present by showing that traditional scenario exercises are only a momentary part of the practice of scenario thinking by developing a socially embedded process base model to show how the practice, with no specific conformity, comes to presence in product innovation teams. Secondly, as an empirical process study it shows how and when the practice of scenario thinking in product innovation teams may lead to the identification of opportunities for innovation. Thirdly, it shows why some organisations are more ‘foresightful’ than others VI by identifying those practices and their underlying activities that enable (or impede) the cultivation of scenario thinking in product innovation teams. In relation to practice it is argued that scenario thinking should not be seen as a ‘one-off’ episodic intervention but rather an everyday practice intentionally or non-intentionally engaged in by organisational actors in their situated practice. As an internally and contextually generated competence imbued with routines, values and know-how it is difficult for competitors to imitate and the practice does not necessarily require an external management guru to facilitate. Effective management of those practices identified to enable (or impede) scenario thinking in innovation teams could lead to the identification of novel opportunities for innovation.