Keywords: new product development, continuous improvement, innovation management, learning
Continuous improvement and inter-project learning in new product development
In an age of discontinuity, one of the few sources of sustainable competitive advantage remains in the ability of companies to innovate their products effectively. As innovative processes for products become more frequent and strategically relevant, long-term competitiveness compels firms to exploit synergy and learning among projects. In fact, mastering the overall process of knowledge creation, dissemination and application is the basis for creating and continuously improving a capability in product development. Learning through sequences of unique innovations, however, is neither simple nor natural, but requires adequate enabling mechanisms. This paper proposes an interpretative model of learning in product innovation. The objective is to identify the barriers that inhibit learning and the main enabling mechanisms to overcome them. The application of these mechanisms and their effects on a firm's performance are discussed on the basis of the results of research involving nineteen case studies of Italian and Swedish companies.