Application Cases in Business

Application Cases in Business

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4727-5.ch007
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Abstract

This chapter concentrates on knowledge flow visualization and analysis in the for-profit business sector. The authors look at an advanced-technology company involved with new-product development. The discussion turns then to examine an independent production company involved with a feature film. The third case involves a technology-transfer project between a university and a microelectronics company. In each case, they draw from secondary data sources for background. This should prove helpful to the reader who is interested in following up to consider more details than presented in this volume. The authors draw also from their own research and professional experience to fill in missing information, and they apply principles and techniques of this book to contribute new insights through examination of knowledge flows in the cases. Each application case concludes with exercises to stimulate critical thought, learning, and discussion. In conjunction with the principles articulated in Section 1 of the book, the application cases explain how organizations from across a very wide range of sizes and domains both succeed and fail at harnessing dynamic knowledge; hence, through case-based reasoning, they provide both positive and negative examples for the leader and manager to use in comparison with his or her own organization.
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Advanced Technology Company And New Product Development

We draw from Massey et al. (2002a; b) for background of this case. We first summarize important events and issues for context. Visualization and analysis of key knowledge flows follow, with interpretation of leadership and management interventions discussed subsequently. The section closes with exercises pertaining specifically to this application case.

Context

An advanced-technology company in the communications and networks industry faces intense competition. In its technology-intensive competitive arena, product innovation represents a key determinant of performance. Just keeping up with the rapid pace of technological advance is required to avoid falling too far behind competitors, and pulling ahead of competitors requires sustained introduction of innovative products that have market appeal and make business sense. Indeed, the company’s strategy centers on innovation. Managers view winning and keeping new customers as the principal means of attaining and sustaining competitive advantage. This competitive backdrop is common across most advanced-technology companies today.

We learn further from the case that management is dissatisfied with the company’s performance. The intensity of competition appears to be increasing, and rival firms are beating this company to market with successive new products. When looking for the next new product for the company to introduce, most of the concepts center on extensions and revisions to existing products, as opposed to new-product innovations. The inventory of new products appears to be plentiful, but the inventory of innovations appears to have reached zero. A researcher in the case adds, “some malaise [is present] in product development” at the company (Massey, 2004). Management is justifiably concerned that the company has lost its ability to innovate. Loss of innovation prowess would sound the death knell for an advanced-technology company such as this.

Through in-depth analysis of the problem, management learns the dearth of innovation does not stem from the knowledge of its people. On the contrary, company personnel appear to possess abundant, relevant knowledge necessary for new-product development, and many ideas for new products can be identified. However, such ideas remain stagnant generally, as the process for developing new products is ineffective. The organization does not provide the kind of guidance and support through its routines that people as individuals and in groups need in order to leverage new-product ideas into new product innovations. In other words, the individuals’ knowledge appears to be adequate for the task environment, but knowledge embedded in the organization’s routines does not. In particular, the problem centers on two issues: 1) new ideas do not flow well to become innovative products; and 2) concept-selection decisions do not reflect shared criteria learned through organizational experience.

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