Disentangling the fuzzy front-end: an integrative literature review

Within the vast body of research on new product development (NPD), the so-called ?fuzzy front end (FFE) of innovation received and continues to receive considerable attention. The importance of the FFE can hardly be underestimated as it has been widely established that improvements to this early phase of the innovation process far exceed advances in later stages of the innovation cycle (Poskela and Martinsuo, 2009; Verworn, 2009). 

Even though its importance cannot be mistaken, FFE research results have been widely dispersed; scholars for example still have problems to settle upon a clear definition of the term ?fuzziness? (Brun, Saetre and Gjelsvik, 2009) and different research approaches and focal points of research are used interchangeably (Reid and de Bretani, 2004). This dissertation is an attempt to understand and synthesize th e ?fuzzy front end? field of research. In doing so, it attempts to answer two research questions: (1) In the FFE research field, what are the different research streams and how have they developed over time and (2) what are the empirically proven success and contingency factors related to managing the fuzzy front end successfully? By means of an exhaustive integrative literature review, 103 publications were reviewed and close-read. The dissertation contributions to the literature in the following ways: first, a visual overview regarding the definitions on the terms ?fuzziness? and the ?front-end? is provided. Next, literature is categorized on (1) methodology type, (2) innovation dimension and (3) conceptual group. Third, success and contingency factors are identified and discussed and a tool is constructed that allows decision-makers, managers and entrepreneurs to understand how the FFE should be managed for their specific situation and context. Besides a theoretical contribution on the actual content of the FFE-literature field and the way it has developed over time, this dissertation also is of practical use for managers and entrepreneurs as it provides insights to move towards more successful FFE-processes.

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Professora Doutora Alexandra Xavier

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Disentangling the fuzzy front-end: an integrative literature review

Ludovicus Eliens

Mestrado em Innovation and Technological Entrepreneurship Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto

I am a Dutch student and finished my Master in Innovation and Technological Entrepreneurship at Porto University in 2015. Currently, I work as an Innovation manager for EY where I am responsible for setting up an internal innovation program for the BeNe area. During my time as a student, I started three companies. I sold one of them, while two companies did not turn out as I hoped for. I am truly passionate about innovation as I belief only we only solve the grave problems we face in today's world through progress and technological innovation.

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