Decision making in innovation : understanding selection and prioritizaiton of development projects

Abstract: This thesis has its origin in empirical evidence. Some Swedish companies claimed that despite having plenty of proposals for developing new products, they experienced problems when choosing from all those alternatives. Their problem was how to select among new ideas the ones for being developed and the ones to be rejected, how many projects to run according to their capacity, when to start a development project and when to stop one, and how to decide among ongoing projects which the most important ones were. The companies’ problem was decision making in the context of innovation.  According to literature, a deeper understanding is needed of the decision making process in innovation, taking into account its organizational and procedural complexities. The purpose of this thesis is to achieve an understanding of the decision making process in innovation.  The thesis is based on an explorative study, with interviews carried out in three companies that have new product development as a core competitive factor. The empirical study focuses on the decisions made for selection and prioritization of different innovative alternatives.  As a result of the analysis of the empirical data a conceptualization of the decision making process was developed. Furthermore, it was described the relevant problems that decision makers experience, the main characteristics of the decision making process and the role that decision making plays in innovation. The implications of these findings for designing work procedures to support decision making in innovation were discussed; and general descriptions of two practical methods suggested.  The main findings indicate that for making decisions in the context of innovation, organizations must be able to face uncertain and ambiguous situations, and achieve a collective understanding about what is to be done. To do this, different approaches for making decisions and understanding innovation are needed. However, regardless of the appropriateness of these approaches, they receive different levels of acceptance within organizations; and decision makers must deal with the different grades of organizational acceptance of the different approaches. As a consequence, an organization displays certain dynamic using different approaches for making decisions and for understanding innovation. Such dynamic influences the companies’ innovative potential and the output of the innovation process.