Keywords: Continuous Product Innovation, learning, knowledge management, radical innovation, incremental innovation, continuous improvement
From product development to Continuous Product Innovation: mapping the routes of corporate knowledge
Product innovation has long been considered as the outcome of New Product Development (NPD) projects, that is, efforts isolated in time and space and performed by a subsystem of the overall organisation. This paper aims to enlarge on this perspective by looking at product innovation as a continuous process of knowledge creation, embodiment and transfer that occurs with the contribution of a large part of the organisation and is extended to all phases of the product life cycle. NPD projects are only one, yet an extremely important phase of this process, which we will refer to as Continuous Product Innovation (CPI). Contributions of all the other downstream phases to innovation can be relevant and are not limited to providing feedback on experience collected for future application. All phases of CPI can be actual opportunities to innovate the product applying knowledge from different sources inside and outside the organisation. On the basis of evidence from 12 explorative studies, this paper will discuss how a sustainable competitive advantage can be gained through careful management of this continuous and cross-functional process of knowledge creation, transfer and integration inside and outside the organisational boundaries of a firm. A supportive model is proposed to help companies to assess their own ability and to share experience concerning knowledge management in Product Innovation.