Opening the Fuzzy Front End: A Synthesis of Two Theories

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Antero Kutvonen
Marko Torkkeli
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Product development processes have been studied since the 80s and nearing 90s, academic attention turned to early phases of development, i.e., fuzzy front-end (FFE). Activities at the FFE are often chaotic and experimental with rather unpredictable or uncertain commercialisation future. Opportunities are raising, but a firm still cannot do all needed development and commercialisation actions for all potential technologies in-house. The theory of open innovation (OI) has tackled some of the emerged dilemmas by opening the borders of the company for knowledge and technology exchange. One of the fundamental notions therein is that technologies of little apparent value to your business may be highly valued outside your company. In our paper, OI and FFE theories are merged to introduce an open new concept development framework, leading to new discoveries in the relation between FFE and external technology exploitation. The framework helps organisations to improve their product development profitability by coping with in- and out-flows of technology.