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Leveraging user relationships for innovation within sustained producer-user ecosystems: Observations from the medical technology industry
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Machine Design (Dept.), Integrated Product Development.
2014 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Today we can see how companies are making significant investments in various methods and tools to access and utilize the users’ knowledge for the purpose of innovation efforts. What many highly innovative companies try to accomplish with these investments is to develop and establish sustained producer-user ecosystems. The aim of these ecosystems is often to encourage users to collaborate with each other and with the producer in order to generate innovations related to the offering of the producer. However, although these ecosystems are proven to create new innovation opportunities for companies, it has been shown that a close collaboration with many users brings about a number of challenges for companies. For example, it can be costly and time-consuming to establish and utilize large numbers of user relationships and it can be difficult to align the innovation interests of established producers with those of the users. Moreover, the fact that many innovating users have relationships to one another can contribute to conflicts of interests and established producers may have to balance stability and change within the ecosystem. Another challenge in the utilization of user relationships is that it is not only dependent on the direct interaction with users but also the internal dissemination and utilization of information related to the users’ needs. This dissemination can be problematic since it is costly and difficult to forward timely and reliable information about the users’ needs. Consequently, the aim of this thesis is to better understand how companies that are operating within sustained producer-user ecosystems can leverage user relationships for the purpose of innovation. The research forming the foundation for this thesis was carried out within two established medical technology companies that successfully had developed innovations within this type of ecosystems. Quantitative and qualitative data was collectedand a number of different analyses were conducted. The results reveal that these ecosystems can be understood as a system where direct and indirect user experiences are distributed among employees and users. This in turn implies that employees utilization of user relationships can be understood as a function of the extent to which employees knows and values the pertinence of their own as well as others direct and indirect user experiences as well as accessibility and cost of seeking user-information from other people. The results demonstrate that when companies experience high costs related to the acquisition of user experiences they may benefit from employing users to occupy boundary-spanning roles. However, the thesis reveals how the utilization of such boundary-spanning roles brings with it a number of organizational challenges. Moreover, an important aspect of success tends to be the utilization of relationships to so-called transformational users. These users experience problems with established producers' current products before the majority of users, they adopt new technologies earlier than their peers, and they cooperate with established producers for the purpose of transformation of a product field in order to obtain or maintain a central position within the ecosystem. Furthermore, the results reveal how established producers and users are jointly engaged in value creation through various collaborations. However, the results also indicate that the utilization of user relationships for innovation within these types of ecosystems is, to a large extent, a matter of managing tensions emerging within and around these collaborations. On a general level, this thesis points to the potential benefits of considering producer-user ecosystems as a comprehensive perspective, which may explain how companies gain and sustain a competitive edge, rather than one out of many approaches that companies can apply in order to leverage user relationships for innovation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2014. , 73 p.
Series
TRITA-MMK, ISSN 1400-1179 ; 2014:10
Keyword [en]
Producer-user ecosystems, User involvement, Innovation, Boundary-spanners, Social networks, Medical technology
National Category
Economics and Business
Research subject
Machine Design
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-151359ISBN: 978-91-7595-263-5 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-151359DiVA: diva2:748041
Public defence
2014-10-03, Kollegiesalen, Brinellvägen 8, KTH, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20140918

Available from: 2014-09-18 Created: 2014-09-18 Last updated: 2014-11-04Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Boundary spanners of user information
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Boundary spanners of user information
2012 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
National Category
Economics and Business
Research subject
Machine Design
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-151357 (URN)
Conference
Continuous Innovation Network (CINet) Conference, Rome, Italy, 16–18 September 2012
Note

QC 20140918

Available from: 2014-09-18 Created: 2014-09-18 Last updated: 2014-09-18Bibliographically approved
2. Exploring the incorporation of users in an innovating business unit
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring the incorporation of users in an innovating business unit
2013 (English)In: International Journal of Technology Management, ISSN 0267-5730, E-ISSN 1741-5276, Vol. 61, no 3-4, 293-308 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The importance of user involvement has long been stressed in the innovation management literature. However, we argue that this literature does not take sufficient account to the employment and incorporation of users in innovation. Hence, we explore the role of incorporated users in innovation activities. The research was conducted in a business unit in a large medical technology company with long experience of employing and incorporating physicians and nurses in its new product development activities. Data were collected through a questionnaire and interviews with key individuals. The study reveals that the incorporation of users has an overall positive effect on innovation activities, but that this way of working also raises several managerial issues. The results show that incorporated users play several different roles in the unit as user representatives, networkers, idea promoters and change agents. Based on our findings we propose managerial implications related to the incorporation of users.

Keyword
user innovation, incorporated users, roles in innovation, medical technology, social network analysis
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-123642 (URN)10.1504/IJTM.2013.052672 (DOI)000318586700006 ()2-s2.0-84875674259 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20130613

Available from: 2013-06-13 Created: 2013-06-13 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
3. How do R&D employees use their social networks to acquire user information?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>How do R&D employees use their social networks to acquire user information?
2014 (English)In: Journal of Knowledge Management, ISSN 1367-3270, E-ISSN 1758-7484, Vol. 18, no 5, 919-936 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose - This article aims to investigate how R&D employees use their social networks to acquire user information and how this information is used in the development of new products.

Design/methodology/approach - A single case study was conducted within a business unit at a multinational medical technology company. Data were collected through a mixed method.

Findings - The results show that many R&D employees lack social networks through which they can acquire information about the users' needs. However, some R&D employees establish cost-efficient relationships to people with a direct experience of using the company's products. These relationships are established over time and are often used in a rather informal way to acquire user information. Moreover, the results show how R&D employees are purposefully complementing these relationships with more occasional interactions with people who hold direct and indirect use experiences.

Research limitations/implications - As with most single-case studies, it will be important to replicate this investigation in other contexts to clarify the generalizability of the findings.

Practical implications - The article shows how important it is that management provides R&D employees with opportunities to establish, nurture and utilize relationships conducive to information about the users' needs. The article provides some advice on how this can be accomplished.

Originality/value - This is one of the first articles that clearly explain how R&D employees use their social networks to acquire user information for the development of new products.

Keyword
User information, Social networks, R&D, New product development, Medical technology
National Category
Economics and Business
Research subject
Machine Design
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-151358 (URN)10.1108/JKM-06-2014-0245 (DOI)000345148700006 ()2-s2.0-84914098552 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20150112. Updated from accepted to published.

Available from: 2014-09-18 Created: 2014-09-18 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved
4. Exploring the utilization of user relationships for the purpose of innovation within sustained producer-user ecosystems
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring the utilization of user relationships for the purpose of innovation within sustained producer-user ecosystems
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Economics and Business
Research subject
Machine Design
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-151356 (URN)
Note

QS 2014

Available from: 2014-09-18 Created: 2014-09-18 Last updated: 2014-09-18Bibliographically approved
5. An action learning method for increased innovation capability in organizations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An action learning method for increased innovation capability in organizations
2010 (English)In: Action Learning: Research and Practice, ISSN 1476-7333, E-ISSN 1476-7341, Vol. 7, no 2, 167-179 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Product innovation in highly complex and technological areas, such as medical technology, puts high requirements on the innovation capability of an organisation. Previous research and publications have highlighted organisational issues and learning matters as important and necessary for the development of innovation capability. Action learning requires reflection on the ways things are carried out, changes in current actions, implementation and improvement and thereafter another round of reflection. This could be difficult for one organisation to carry out internally and so this research uses a learning network set-up involving several organisations for inter-organisational action learning. The purpose of this article is to describe the learning network set-up used in a current action learning project in the medical technology industry and to discuss the initial experience gained. The research project aims at increasing the innovation capability of the participating organisations. The method used is based on action learning and involves representatives from industrial partners, public health organisations and academic partners. The different organisations run innovation projects over a time period of three years and meet three times a year in learning network sessions with the purpose of developing knowledge by action learning interaction between the different organisations. During these learning network sessions the participants are facilitated to go through different phases: reflection, new concepts, new actions, implementation and new reflection. The paper elaborates on theories of innovation capability and learning networks and thereafter the methods of action research, experiential learning and action learning. The action learning network structure, the experience gained in the initial phases of the project and the experience of action learning and learning networks is then presented. The importance of trust-building between partners in the network in order to facilitate action learning and development of innovation capability is discussed, as is the learning that takes place in the interaction between academics from different disciplines in their interaction with the practitioners.

Keyword
Action learning, Innovation capability, Inter-organisational learning, Learning network;, Product innovation, Trust-building
National Category
Economics and Business
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-150334 (URN)10.1080/14767333.2010.488328 (DOI)2-s2.0-79960167517 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20140901

Available from: 2014-09-01 Created: 2014-09-01 Last updated: 2017-12-05Bibliographically approved

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