Managing Controversies in the Fuzzy Front End

John K. Christiansen, Marta Gasparin

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This research investigates the controversies that emerge in the fuzzy front end (FFE) and how they are closed so the innovation process can move on. The fuzzy front has been characterized in the literature as a very critical phase, but controversies in the FFE have not been studied before. The analysis investigates the microprocesses around the controversies that emerge during the fuzzy front end of four products. Five different types of controversies are identified: profit, production, design, brand and customers/market. Each controversy represents a threat, but also an opportunity to search for new solutions in the unpredictable non-linear processes. The study uses an ethnographic approach using qualitative data from interviews, company documents, external communication and marketing material, minutes of meetings, informal conversations and observations. The analysis of four FFE processes demonstrates how the fuzzy front requires managers to deal with controversies that emerge from many different places and involve both human and non-human actors. Closing the controversies requires managers to take account of the situation, identify the problem that needs to be addressed, and initiate a search for solutions. Management is actively involved in this process, in many different ways. Among the implications from this analysis is that the managers' role in the FFE is multifaceted and each controversy seems to require different skills and competencies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCreativity and Innovation Management
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)500-514
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016

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