Inderscience Publishers

The dynamics of cognitive oversimplification processes in R&D environments: an empirical assessment of some consequences

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Despite the obvious importance of thinking and reflection in a knowledge intensive function such as Research and Development (R&D), it is only recently that a cognitive/interpretive focus is gaining some, albeit limited, recognition in the organisational literature on R&D, new product development, and innovation. Science is a function of human cognition and thus a fuller understanding of R&D should necessarily include the investigation of human cognition; at least, those cognitive processes that underlie scientific inquiry. We posit that one approach towards studying the effectiveness of the quality of cognitive processes in R&D efforts is an examination of cognitive over-simplification activity in R&D environments. Cognitive over-simplification processes are reliance on simple cognitive decision rules to make sense of and deal with complex and fuzzy problems. They have also been alternately called process biases and heuristics. In this paper, we extend a cognitively based understanding of R&D, explore empirically cognitive over-simplification processes in scientific work in 25 basic pharmaceutical R&D teams, and assess their impact on the effectiveness of R&D outcomes. Results suggest that project performance ratings of R&D teams (subsequently confirmed by the termination or survival of projects) experiencing higher levels of cognitive over-simplification activity were lower than teams reporting a lesser incidence of cognitive over-simplification activity.

Keywords: R&, D, knowledge, cognition, learning, innovation, new product development

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