Infoscience

Thesis

Diving into the dynamics of product evolution: analyzing technological discontinuities during the era of incremental change and cognitive convergence on a dominant design

Three distinct stages describe the technological evolution of a product over time: ferment, convergence on a dominant design and an era of incremental change. Until recently, the era of incremental change has been characterized as stable and one that involves low levels of technological innovation. However, recent studies have indicated that this era of incremental change may actually be quite disruptive. This raises the question as to which processes and mechanisms in new product development during the era of incremental change trigger high levels of innovation. First, this dissertation offers a conceptual study about how collaboration practices with suppliers characterized by a relatively high intensity shift the technological evolution away from the era of incremental change towards the stage of ferment. Second, a quantitative study of the medical technology industry in Europe reveals that involving suppliers in new product development during the era of incremental change may trigger technological novelties that are incorporated into new product architectures; A new product architecture shifts the technological evolution towards the era of ferment. According to the results of the second study, it appears that only by improving products based on established architectures are firms unable to innovate new technologies. Additionally, the stage of convergence on a dominant design has mainly been examined on the basis of technological convergence. However, a possible convergence on a dominant design away from the stage of ferment also involves a cognitive variable. Third, this study observes the cognitive variable while examining the nascent smartwatch market. Within a nascent market, firms within previously distinct domains compete with one another. Firms lack a better understanding of customer preferences and develop initial products based on assumptions that are rooted within their previous industry. This qualitative study illustrates that firms from the same prior industry conceptualize their products in a similar way with regard to nascent product features. Overall, this dissertation more deeply explores the product life-cycle of technological development, provides a better understanding of the dynamics during the era of incremental change, demonstrates how the technological life-cycle of a product may shift from one stage to the other and supplies additional explanations concerning how a dominant design may emerge out of the ferment stage of technological development.

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