Collaborating with Customers to Innovate
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Collaborating with Customers to Innovate

Conceiving and Marketing Products in the Networking Age

Emanula Prandelli, Mohanbir Sawhney and Gianmario Verona

The book enriches an important debate in management and in academia on the new product development process. It encompasses marketing approaches and is sharply focused on the opportunities that digital technologies have created for involving customers in collaborative innovation, and actionable recommendations for putting collaborative innovation to work.
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Chapter 5: From Collaborative to Distributed Innovation

Emanula Prandelli, Mohanbir Sawhney and Gianmario Verona


5.1 INTRODUCTION One of the managerial advances that have resulted from the widespread deployment of ICT is the ability to greatly enhance a firm’s innovation capacity by leveraging external knowledge resources beyond individual customers. While the importance of absorbing external knowledge to support innovation has been understood for some time (for example, Cohen and Levinthal, 1990; Zahra and George, 2002), firms have historically been limited in their ability to reach beyond their boundaries for innovative ideas. This limitation is the result of a variety of factors, including the absence of open standards for communication and the idiosyncrasy of knowledge (Arora and Gambardella, 1994). Consequently, the interorganizational division of innovative labor has traditionally been limited to a few specialized industries such as biotechnology (Shan et al., 1994; Powell et al., 1996), pharmaceuticals (Cockburn et al., 2000), and the automotive industry (Langlois and Robertson, 1995; Dyer and Nobeoka, 2000). This situation has begun to change dramatically with the emergence of the Internet as an open, global and ubiquitous platform for communication. The Internet has opened new doors to firms seeking to create new organizational mechanisms to support their absorptive capacities. Enhanced connectivity through the Internet allows different actors in the markets to become contributors and collaborators in innovation (Iansiti and MacCormack, 1997; Prahalad and Ramaswamy, 2004). Internetenabled virtual environments offer firms new avenues to interact with suppliers (Thomke and Kuemmerle, 2002). Web-based communities enable a highly decentralized approach to innovation activity involving large numbers of independent contributors. It is important...

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