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Stage-to-Stage Information Dependency in the NPD Process: Effective Learning or a Potential Entrapment of NPD Gates?

Authors

  • Kristina Risom Jespersen


  •  The author greatly appreciates the thoughtful comments from the JPIM editor, Anthony Di Benedetto, and two anonymous reviewers who materially improved this paper. Kirsten Baum Slot and Thomas Stephansen assisted with data and text handling. Also, the financial support from the Danish Research Council of Social Sciences (Grant # 275-05-0032) is acknowledged.

Address correspondence to: Kristina Risom Jespersen, School of Economics and Management, Aarhus University, Bartholins Alle 10, Building 1322, DK-8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. E-mail: kjespersen@econ.au.dk. Tel: 004587165534.

Abstract

The new product development (NPD) process is a sequence of stages and gates. Each stage consists of NPD activities that provide NPD managers with information input about the new product project progression. Information input is used for review decisions at gates. Over the course of an NPD process, managers learn about a new product project as to ensure successful launch. The view is that a new product project is shaped by the path of NPD activities it has traveled. Because learning is assumed to take place over the course of the NPD process, stage-to-stage information dependency is an assumption of NPD research. A concern raised is that development activities for each NPD stage are rigorously followed by NPD managers. In other words, stage-to-stage information dependency may potentially trap NPD managers rather than create effective learning from end to end of the development process. The purpose of this paper is to explore the assumption of stage-to-stage information dependency in NPD. The investigated research questions are whether the selection of NPD activities is linked between stages and whether these information dependencies strengthen NPD gate decisions. For the information dependencies identified in the study, the innovation experience characteristics of NPD managers pursuing them and the influence of information dependencies on NPD gate decisions are analyzed so as to provide insights for a discussion of information dependency versus information independency in the NPD process. The applied research method is an experiential simulation of NPD gate decision-making—NPDGATES. One hundred thirty-one NPD managers from international product development strategic business units (SBUs) situated in Denmark participated in the study. Logistic regressions were conducted as the basis for the calculation of stage-to-stage information dependency probabilities. Based on the study findings, the assumption about information dependency in the NPD process held by NPD research is found to be flawed. End-to-end information paths in the NPD process are rare. Further, market condition changes are found to significantly influence the stage-to-stage information dependencies demonstrated by NPD managers. It seems that competition becomes a reassurance of NPD efforts. Also, the results show that NPD experience creates inflexibility in relation to the selection of NPD activities. The need for strict process management is strong among experienced NPD managers. In relation to NPD gates, the results show that information dependencies increase priority given to financial decision criteria at gates and lower priority given to customer and market decision criteria. Overall, stage-to-stage information dependency seems to create inflexibility that hinders successful NPD process implementation.

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