Managing information for effective product innovation : a contingency approach
Is it beneficial for firms to tailor their new product development (NPD) strategies to accommodate different project situations/conditions? This thesis examines the applicability of contingency theory to product innovation management. Based on an extensive literature review, information processing and knowledge accumulation are interpreted as the cognitive core of NPD, which further forms the basis of this study. The concept of "fit" provides a necessary focus for statistical analyses, where information processing and organisational learning models are presented to compare the use of these models and their associated NPD contingent situations/conditions. The development of the research instrument was guided by previous literature and its validity and reliability tested in a pilot study. A project-level study involving 112 NPD cases from 53 Taiwanese firms, selected via a representative sampling design, was undertaken. Research data were acquired via a semi-structural questionnaire and through in-depth interviews with managers. Both qualitative and quantitative techniques were applied, to examine the nature of the research domain, and to retain the ability to generalize research findings to the sampling frame. This study provides better insight into the dynamics of product innovation. Multivariate techniques were successfully used to develop a typology for differentiating NPD projects. For consideration of internal contingent factors, NPD projects were classified into Easy-to-Produce Radicals, Hard-to-Produce Radicals, Untried Incrementals, and Tried and Tested Incrementals. For consideration of external contingent factors, three NPD market conditions were identified, i.e., Turbulent Market, Declining Market, and Stable Market. The findings suggest that internal conringent factors strongly affect the pattern of projecr-level information processing, knowledge accumulation, and NPD structural design, while external contingent factors have a limited effect upon NPD. This study contributes to NPD management theory in three key areas: (1) The hidden structure of NPD contingencies is uncovered in a systematic way. This provides a basis for future studies, in which these contingent factors can be controlled and the effect on other NPD activities can be observed more closely. (2) By combining qualitative and quantitative techniques in a single research design, both the structure and the process of product innovation are observed, This allowed the researcher to present a more detailed anatomy of NPD information processing. (3) Previous academic work into NPD contingency management was mainly based on hypothesized contingency variables, such as radical/incremental innovations or routine/nonroutine tasks; these classifications are too broad and fail to reveal the true nature of NPD. The current stud y differentiates NPD projects based on situations/conditions empirically identified from fieldwork; this further extends the frontier of conventional NPD contingency studies.