Unpacking scenario thinking in product innovation teams: A practice approach
Sarpong, D. and Maclean, M. (2011) Unpacking scenario thinking in product innovation teams: A practice approach. In: 18th International Product Development Conference, Delft, The Netherlands, 5th - 7th June, 2011.
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Scenario thinking is often presented as a bundle of methodologies, methods, activities and capabilities that enable firms to explore and exploit opportunities relevant future opportunities in the present. In this paper we ask the question: What is scenario thinking in product innovation teams? Drawing on the ‘practice turn’ in contemporary social theory, we ‘unpack’ scenario thinking as the use of scenario narratives to stimulate actions in the immediate present (also informed by the past) about possible futures in an attempt to improve understanding of the cost, returns, efficiency and all of the requisite information related to the creation and capture of value from new product innovation. The research employed a case-based approach with three software organisations and four new product innovation projects serving as the empirical research sites. With emphasis placed on the innovation teams’ everyday practices and relationships in context, data for the empirical inquiry was collected using the qualitative methods of ethnographic interviews, non-participant observation and the analysis of organisational and project archival documents. Drawing on the case evidence, we account for the dynamic emergence of scenario thinking in innovation teams by identifying some quintessentially embedded practices, modalities and contingencies which gives form to the practice as manifested in the innovation teams’ as they engage in their situated practice. These include human and material social interaction, flexibility through improvisation, and the emergence of human agency. We conclude the paper with a discussion of the managerial implications and some limitations of our research.
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