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Radical innovation: triggering initiation of opportunity recognition and evaluation

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The gap between a firm’s reservoir of technical knowledge and the formation of a project to explore the commercial potential of a breakthrough technical insight or discovery is the first major discontinuity in the radical innovation lifecycle. The first step toward bridging that gap occurs when the researcher with the technical insight recognizes that it might have commercial potential and decides to alert a research manager. In our longitudinal study of eight radical innovation projects in six large, multi‐national, R&D‐intensive firms, the initiation of a radical innovation project was neither frequent nor routine. In fact the participants in the study indicated that the initiation of a project – in their terminology, the ‘fuzzy front end of innovation’– was the most challenging and uncertain part of the lifecycle. In this paper we explore the case data to illuminate the nature of the initiation gap. In addition we present an assessment framework that can help researchers decide whether or not to bring their technical idea to the attention of management. If the decision is positive, the assessment tool can help them prepare for the discussion with management and identify the strengths and weaknesses of the case to submitted for evaluation.
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Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: 1: Lally School of Management and Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180 U.S.A., 2: Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship, Babson College, Babson Park, MA 02457 U.S.A.

Publication date: 2001-10-01

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