Link to [[full article|/static/files/MBI/Module%208/mbi02.8_001%20-%20Fuzzy%20Front%20End.pdf]]

The Fuzzy Front End of innovation is the messy getting started part of the product development
process before a solid product concept it in place. Since Smith and Reinertsen coined the term
in 1991, several research teams have investigated it, focusing on defining what needs to be
done in the fuzzy front end, finding mechanisms for taking the chaos out of this process, and
developing processes or systems that firms can put in place to manage projects through the
fuzzy front end.
This research investigates how 19 serial innovators – individuals in large, mature firms who
have been associated with one after another product development success, and frequently ones
of a more radical or breakthrough nature – navigate through the fuzzy front end of new product
development. Serial innovators expend a significant amount of time in the fuzzy front end before
proceeding on to executing the project. We find that, rather than trying to take the chaos out of
the front end or linearize the front end into a “process,” they take more of an outcome-based
We uncovered three major objectives that these innovators strove to complete before moving
into the more formal execution steps of new product development. First, they focus on finding
the “right” problem, which they define as one that has the potential for large impact for the firm,
is feasible, and is acceptable to both the customer and management. Then, they spend a
significant amount of time ensuring that they understand the problem completely, from both
customer and technical perspectives, with forays into understanding the aggregate market and
competitive situation. These individuals circle between completing these two objectives, refining
the opportunity and concept until they have sufficient information. Ultimately, their full
understanding allows them to create a path toward innovation, to move to the tasks of inventing
to solve the problem and validating the solution. To invent, they use many of the standard tools
of creative problem solving, making connections across domains. They build and test models of
the problem that lead to various solutions that might work, and repeatedly strive to simplify the
solutions they are developing. The outcome of this effort is a proposed solution to the problem
with all the unknowns sufficiently reduced such that it can proceed into the firm’s formal product
development process.
Sat, 16 Oct 2010 11:28:32 GMT
Sat, 16 Oct 2010 11:28:32 GMT