Innovation groups : Before innovation work is begun

Abstract: This research project was begun during the financial crisis of 2009 with the objective of increasing the competiveness of SMEs’ (Small and Medium sized Enterprises) by developing their innovation-management capabilities. The research presented in this licentiate thesis (thesis) is a part of the project in which newly-formed innovation groups at two SMEs in Eskilstuna, Sweden have been studied before they began innovation work.Prior research has indicated a need to observe processes within on-going innovation projects. My overall hypothesis that reaches beyond this thesis, is that an innovation group that improves its innovation-related knowledge, reduces knowledge gaps and increases innovation-related awareness, generates positive additional values such as motivation or enthusiasm above the results such as patents or project costs that are traditional measurements within innovation projects.The first study in the iterative research process focused on the innovation-related knowledge of newly-formed innovation groups. The results led to further immersed studies, in total five case studies, in which 21 respondents participated. A theoretical framework consisting of theories from Knowledge management and System theory was used to analyze the results and the research question of this licentiate thesis emerged as: “What would a model that describes a newly-formed innovation group’s innovation-related knowledge, knowledge gaps, information flow and awareness look like?” Four sub-questions, one per each aspect of the research question, have been used to analyze prior research, theories and the conducted case studies.A model, Innovation Group Model (IGM), was created according to the research question and goal for this thesis. A one-sentence-explanation could be: “The organization, the innovation group and the individuals must have the opportunity to be motivated to learn innovation management in theory and practice to achieve innovation-readiness and awareness to detect and utilize innovation-related information available within the internal and external information flow.”This thesis contributes to the research area of Innovation and design with knowledge concerning newly-formed innovation groups. Three practical applications of the research results are suggested; (1) IGM can be used in organizations to understand the complex situation when an innovation group is created. (2) IGM can be used when planning for physical or virtual environments in which an innovation group consisting of professionals and customers is intended to develop or generate ideas. (3) IGM can be used when developing innovation-related audits intended to provide a deeper understanding of a respondent’s knowledge.On the basis of the results from this licentiate thesis, I suggest further research according to the overall hypothesis. With IGM as a starting point, one could study the progress of innovation groups and where necessary, provide support in specific areas.