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Despite differences in definitions, researchers understand that radical innovation within an organization is very different from incremental innovation [13,17,21] and that it is critical to the long-term success of firms. Unfortunately, research has also shown that it is often difficult to get support for radical projects in large firms [14], where internal cultures and pressures often push efforts toward more low risk, immediate reward, incremental projects. Interestingly, we know considerably less about the effective management of the product development process in the radical than in an incremental context. The purpose of this study is to explore the process of radical new product development from a strategic perspective, and to outline key observations and challenges that managers face as they move these projects to market. The findings presented here represent the results of a longitudinal (since 1995), multidisciplinary study of radical innovation projects. A multiple case study design was used to explore the similarities and differences in management practices applied to twelve radical innovation projects in ten large, established North American firms. The findings are grouped into three high-level strategic themes. The first theme, market scope, discusses the challenges associated with the pursuit of familiar versus unfamiliar markets for radical innovation. The second theme of competency management identifies and discusses strategic challenges that emerge as firms stretch themselves into new and unfamiliar territory. The final theme relates to the people issues that emerge as both individuals and the project teams themselves try to move radical projects forward in organizations that are not necessarily designed to support such uncertainty.

A breadth of subtopics emerge within and across this framework relating to such ideas as risk management, product cannibalization, team composition, and the search for a divisional home. Taken together, our observations reinforce the emerging literature that shows that project teams engaging in radical innovation encounter a much different set of challenges than those typically faced by NPD teams engaged in incremental innovation.