Gillier, T., Kazakci, A. O., Seidel, V. P., & Piat, G. 2016. “The network structure of ideas and the evolutionary synthesis of breakthrough product concepts.” In J. Humphreys (Ed.) Proceedings of the Seventy-sixth Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management Online ISSN: 2151-6561.
Innovation teams are tasked to generate new product concepts that are then evaluated for their originality and feasibility for future development. A focus on generating highly original product concepts would imply using ideas novel to the domain of interest, drawing from evolutionary models of innovation through searching and selecting from highly diverse ideas. A focus on feasible product concepts would imply using ideas more well- known to the domain of interest, with a focus on creative synthesis of ideas. Given these conflicting approaches, how should teams recombine ideas to develop “breakthrough concepts” that combine originality and feasibility? Our study tasked ten teams with the generation of such breakthrough concepts, and we developed concept networks describing how each idea introduced within a team was related to one other. These networks allowed us to examine the properties of individual ideas and resulting linkages between them. Through an inductive comparative analysis approach, we were able to determine three practices—selective integration, avoiding fixation, and linking novelty—that together were indicative of breakthrough concepts judged both novel and feasible. Mixed use of these practices resulted in ideas that lacked either novelty or feasibility or both. By focusing on ideas themselves and their network of interrelation, we are able to provide a new lens on how ideation can occur most effectively within organizations and that fits within a model of evolutionary synthesis.
Search Terms: Product development | Innovation | Development teams