How does a project-based organization affect the development of the Industry 4.0? Leading innovation through a ‘fluid mosaic’ organizational model
University of Turin, Italy
In the last years, governments have been promoted the development of the Industry 4.0 paradigm in several ways, i.e. by supporting collaborations between Universities and firms throughout the development of project-based organizations. Our research analyses the plan "Fabbrica Intelligente" promoted by the Piedmont Region (Italy) that involved eight projects-based organizations.
Organizations can be defined as project-based when “the project is the primary business mechanism for coordinating…the main business functions [with] no formal functional coordination across project lines” (Hobday, 2000: 874). Temporality is an essential feature of these kinds of organizations (DeFillippi and Arthur, 1998).
A project-based organizational structure has often been considered an appropriate way for organizing innovation processes (e.g. Hobday 2000). But it could obstacle the purpose of the project itself as research suggests also that project basing can limit the innovative potential of firms (Gann 2000)
Since this kind of organization may assume different forms of informal organizations - ranging from flatter/a-hierarchical to more centralized and hierarchic ones - and different leadership styles and cultures, it could be very relevant to explore what specific sub-types of project-based organizations could obstacle or rather foster innovation.
Industry 4.0 is an emergent topic. To our knowledge, there are still no studies focusing on how and what specific types of project-based organizations may positively affect innovation processes and collaborations between universities, research centers and enterprises in an industry 4.0 environment. Our research seeks to fill precisely this lack.
How and what types of project-based organizations can stimulate the effective collaboration among research centers, universities and companies towards the development of the Industry 4.0 paradigm? How does the Industry 4.0 initiatives themselves stimulate the related innovation processes and collaboration between those different organizational stakeholders?
This paper analyses the case of “Fabbrica Intelligente”, an Italian strategic plan aimed at developing Industry 4.0 initiatives and promoted by the Piedmont Region. Our research adopts a mixed method approach (Johnson, Onwuegbuzie, and Turner 2007) based mainly on in-depth interviews, active participant observation, secondary data analysis, and quantitative surveys within an action research frame (Altrichter et al. 2002; Coghlan and Brannick 2014)
Data have been collected from multiple sources: regional and internal documents, interviews with the organizational stakeholders of the projects, participant observations. One hundred twenty firms, three Universities, and four research centers involved in the regional plan are going to be further surveyed through structured questionnaires.
From one hand, regional documents allowed to achieve descriptive information on the total number of firms, universities and research centers involved, the public funding received by each organization, the aim of each project. Moreover, the regional document provides details about the specific technology that each project is going to develop. From the other, in-depth interviews and participant observations helped to understand how the collaboration between the different stakeholders evolved in time and make a first picture of the different emerging types of project-based organizations.
The regional plan gave birth to ad hoc project-based organizations. Each organization has its own heterogeneous partners (private and public, firms as well as research centers and universities) and adopted a specific structure with very different coordination mechanisms, leadership styles, degrees of hierarchy - in a continuum, ranging from a very low level to a very high one -, different cultures, etc. Each organization has a big company as leader in charge of coordinating the execution of each specific Industry 4.0 project. From the data it first emerges that when coordination mechanisms are strongly based on the hierarchy it is very hard to share and transfer knowledge between partners, making very tricky the innovation development. Instead, when coordination is based on a mutual adjustment between the partners, the information flow is easier, as well as the knowledge transfer, leading to more flowing innovation processes. In this vein, the resulting organization takes the form of what we called a ‘fluid mosaic’ model drawing on the fluid mosaic concept developed in biology. At the same time, our data show also that some Industry 4.0 initiatives may trigger innovation and collaboration, depending on the initiative aim.
Contribution to Scholarship
Our contribution provides a better understanding of how and what specific types of project-based organizations may positively affect the innovation processes and promote collaboration among different stakeholders in an Industry 4.0 environment. It extends the academic knowledge concerning the organizational models more suitable for developing innovation.
Contribution to Practice
The results of the present research could be employed by policy makers in order to develop more effective future programs aimed at supporting (not only) the Industry 4.0 growth within a network logic. Our results could also be employed by business practitioners in order to better designing their smart enterprises.
Our research sheds light on the industry-university collaboration and related efforts of achieving innovation in an increasingly dynamic 4.0 environment whereas the focus of this year’s R&D Management Conference is precisely to connect research, industry and society towards innovation.
Altrichter, Herbert, Stephen Kemmis, Robin McTaggart, and Ortrun Zuber-Skerritt. "The concept of action research." The learning organization 9, no. 3 (2002): 125-131.
Coghlan, D., & Brannick, T. (2014). Doing action research in your own organization. Sage.
DeFillippi, R. J., & Arthur, M. B. (1998). Paradox in project-based enterprise: The case of film making. California management review, 40(2), 125-139.
Hobday, M. (2000). The project-based organisation: an ideal form for managing complex products and systems?. Research policy, 29(7-8), 871-893.
Johnson, R. B., Onwuegbuzie, A. J., & Turner, L. A. (2007). Toward a definition of mixed methods research. Journal of mixed methods research, 1(2), 112-133.
Gann, D. M., & Salter, A. J. (2000). Innovation in project-based, service-enhanced firms: the construction of complex products and systems. Research policy, 29(7-8), 955-972.
Sustainable business model innovation and value co-creation within innovation ecosystems: a multi-level perspective.
University of Turin, Department of Management, Italy
Digital technologies have been increasingly affecting our day-to-day activities, drastically reshaping markets and society. The diffusion of new digital technologies is posing firms to challenges, creating opportunities to develop radically new and sustainable business models (Evans et al., 2017; Rachinger, et al., 2018).
SMEs are considered a driving force in most national economies, contributing heavily to employment, innovation and economic growth (Bouwman et al., 2018), but at the same time they often suffer from lack of both financial and human resources. These weaknesses may be compensated by the inflow and outflow of knowledge and capital boosted by technological innovation and participation within innovation ecosystems (Oh et al., 2016; Spithoven et al., 2013).
However, despite the growing interest towards this issue, the contribute of digitalisation from the perspective of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is still such an underinvestigated topic.
The research question of this paper is the following: how both the relationships established within the ecosystem and the internal organizational capabilities of SMEs impact on business model innovation thanks to the adoption of digital technologies such as Internet of things, big data, and open data.
The authors carried out an exploratory multiple case study on an Italian Industry 4.0 project which involved several actors (e.g. food SMEs, universities, technology consulting companies, and Piedmont Region). The analysis has compared two Italian food SMEs (that have been respectively called “A” and “B” to ensure anonymity) which were involved in the project. Data were collected (Eisenhardt, 1989) from semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and document analysis. Open and axial coding techniques (Corbin & Strauss, 2008) were employed to identify and link the qualitative data collected for the research. The document analysis and the participant observation have guaranteed data triangulation.
We administered a set of semi-structured interviews to a sample of (N = 12) different actors from the innovation ecosystem object of analysis, while a document analysis and a participant observation of three years were carried out over the whole project lifetime
This is still an ongoing research, however first findings show that innovation ecosystems could represent a strong driver for developing a sustainable and innovative business model oriented to value co-creation provided that SMEs already own distinctive capabilities (e.g., technological, managerial and dynamic) at both individual and organisational level. Without these internal capabilities it would be difficult to fully exploit the digital opportunities arising from the relationships among the heterogeneous actors which are part of the project.
Contribution to Scholarship
This paper contributes to the body of knowledge on both digitalisation and innovation ecosystems by providing empirical insights on how interactions among different actors such as SMEs, universities, technology consulting companies, and government institutions can foster the adoption of digital technologies to achieve sustainable business model innovation within a context of collaboration and value co-creation.
Contribution to Practice
In addition to the theoretical contributions, this study also offers managerial implications. This paper is useful for SME managers, since it suggests to not only see the calls for projects as a financial opportunity; innovation ecosystems are in fact characterised by a complex system of relationships that, if supported by firm’s organisational capabilities, can give rise to a virtuous circle.
Since the key theme of the conference is innovation and how to bridge research, industry and society, a paper analysing the role played by innovation ecosystems in boosting digitalisation fits well with the main theme.
Bouwman, H., Nikou, S., Molina-Castillo, F. J., & de Reuver, M. (2018). The impact of digitalization on business models. Digital Policy, Regulation and Governance, 20(2), 105-124.
Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2008). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Eisenhardt, K. M. (1989). Building theories from case study research. Academy of management review, 14(4), 532-550.
Evans, S., Vladimirova, D., Holgado, M., Van Fossen, K., Yang, M., Silva, E. A., & Barlow, C. Y. (2017). Business Model Innovation for Sustainability: Towards a Unified Perspective for Creation of Sustainable Business Models. Business Strategy and the Environment, 26(5), 597–608.
Oh, D.S., Phillips, F., Park, S., & Lee, E. (2016). Innovation ecosystems: A critical examination. Technovation, 54, 1-6.
Rachinger, M., Rauter, R., Müller, C., Vorraber, W., & Schirgi, E. (2018). Digitalization and its influence on business model innovation. Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management.
Spithoven, A., Vanhaverbeke, W., & Roijakkers, N. (2013). Open innovation practices in SMEs and large enterprises. Small Business Economics, 41(3), 537-562.
Taking Whatever Comes: Common Practice of Unwitting Entrepreneurs
TSM-Research, Université Toulouse Capitole, CNRS
This enactive research (Johannisson, 2018) aims to uncover the entrepreneurial practice of unwitting entrepreneurs. I examine the practice of self-employed, healthcare professionals, who are collectively entrepreneuring (i.e., creating collaborative spaces and launching health promotion projects). Though they went through multiple collective entrepreneurial journeys, they do not identify themselves as entrepreneurs.
Opportunities are made of coincidences that are exploited by intelligent individuals (Johannisson, 2014). To better understand their practices and thus to capture their rhythm and their timing (Bourdieu, 1992), I become part of the unwitting entrepreneurs’ social world (Johannisson, 2018). By focusing on unique situations of their life (Johannisson, 2014), I was able to “identify the every-day and socially situated nature of [their] entrepreneurship” (Gartner, Stam, Thompson, & Verduyn, 2016, p. 814). In particular, investigating their social interactions (Puhakka & Stewart, 2015) led to consider more deeply their improvisation and bricolage (Baker & Nelson, 2005; Imas, Wilson, & Weston, 2012; Johannisson, 2011; Watson, 2013).
Literature has long focused on entrepreneurship rather than entrepreneuring.
How unwitting entrepreneurs enact their daily entrepreneurship?
My experience consisted of living two weeks with them, at their workplace (i.e., professional side) and houses (i.e., personal side). Results are reported through an auto-ethnographic approach (Ellis & Bochner, 2000) as recommended by Johannisson (2018).
In April 2017, during a two-week field residency, I followed and observed the unwitting entrepreneurs, in their collaborative spaces, for one hundred and forty-two hours. I interviewed forty-five people besides informal discussions, meetings attendance and shadowing. I was also involved in the kick-off day of a collective entrepreneurial project. Three months later, I met some of them in a professional regional event. One year later, I conducted three follow-up phone interviews. In addition to such methodological bricolage (Johannisson, 2018), sleeping over, having informal dinners and breakfasts, sharing their cars, and other moments shared in their private sphere catalyzed immersion and enactment of their realities.
Though these unwitting entrepreneurs were completely strangers to me, my two-week living experience with them, day and night, was stimulating. It was like I accepted to be thrown in their world and explore what it can offer. My pharmaceutical background was the key to get accepted by them. It laid the ground for mutual understanding and, consequently, less resistance to my presence, larger openness to communicate and closer to in vivo behaviors. These factors allowed me to open the black box and observe these unwitting entrepreneurs in practice.
Contribution to Scholarship
Through multiple discussions and a long-time reflection on my experience, I identified a common pattern of these unwitting entrepreneurs’ everyday sense making: “taking whatever comes”. To illustrate this hidden motto, I was welcomed and “taken” in their world, up to the point to be hosted in their homes. This practice was common in their everyday behaviors, in which they took whatever came, processed information, improvised and bricolaged.
Contribution to Practice
Better understanding of unwitting entrepreneurs' practice should inform local policymakers about promising entrepreneurial projects emerging in their communities.
This paper investigates collective entrepreneuring, which involves creating collaborative spaces and launching health promotion projects.
Baker, T., & Nelson, R. E. (2005). Creating Something from Nothing: Resource Construction through Entrepreneurial Bricolage. Administrative Science Quarterly, 50(3), 329–366. http://doi.org/10.2189/asqu.2005.50.3.329
Bourdieu, P. (1992). The Logic of Practice. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Ellis, C., & Bochner, A. (2000). Autoethnogrpahy, Personal Narrative, Reflexivity: Researcher as Subject. In Handbook of Qualitative Research (2nd ed., pp. 733–768). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Gartner, W. B., Stam, E., Thompson, N., & Verduyn, K. (2016). Entrepreneurship as Practice: Grounding Contemporary Practice Theory into Entrepreneurship Studies. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 28(9–10), 813–816. http://doi.org/10.1080/08985626.2016.1251736
Imas, J. M., Wilson, N., & Weston, A. (2012). Barefoot Entrepreneurs. Organization, 19(5), 563–585. http://doi.org/10.1177/1350508412459996
Johannisson, B. (2011). Towards a Practice Theory of Entrepreneuring. Small Business Economics, 36(2), 135–150. http://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-009-9212-8
Johannisson, B. (2014). Entrepreneurship: The Practice of Cunning Intelligence. In 20 Years of Entrepreneurship Research: From Small Business Dynamics to Entrepreneurial Growth and Societal Prosperity (pp. 109–119). Stockholm: Swedish Entrepreneurship Forum.
Johannisson, B. (2018). Disclosing Entrepreneurship as Practice. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing. http://doi.org/10.4337/9781785361371
Puhakka, V., & Stewart, H. (2015). Social Creation of Opportunities: Breaking Boundaries to Create Mutually Attractive Business. Journal of Innovation Economics, 18(3), 53–78. http://doi.org/10.3917/jie.018.0053
Watson, T. J. (2013). Entrepreneurship in Action: Bringing Together the Individual, Organizational and Institutional Dimensions of Entrepreneurial Action. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 25(5–6), 404–422. http://doi.org/10.1080/08985626.2012.754645
How relevant is stage-gate for R&D management today?
University of portsmouth, United Kingdom
The benefits of the use of a stage-gate approach to help research and development within firms have been discussed for many years. Yet firms also know that the innovation process may follow a number of different paths.
The benefits of stage-gate models for R&D management have been well documented (Griffin, 1997; Cooper, Edgett and Kleinschmidt, 2002, 2005). However, there is also a history of criticism of phased NPD processes. Alternative models have been introduced to solve many of the limitations of stage-gate, including Lean PPD, Six Sigma, agile / scrum, and Lean Start-up. A recent body of work on Stage Gate / Agile hybrids has also emerged, discussing the use of iteration within phases and new team management models such as Scrum (Cooper and Sommer, 2016; Conforto and Amaral, 2016). These recent changes to the stage-gate process reflect how much NPD has moved on since stage-gate models were first introduced over thirty years ago. Indeed, many firms now embrace concepts such as: open innovation; entrepreneurial R&D; and crowdsourcing.
The purpose of this paper is to clarify the lines of debate surrounding stage-gate. We examine why these criticisms persist and explore whether there may be fundamental weaknesses at play. We offer the first comprehensive analysis of the persistent limitations of the stage-gate approach.
This then forms the basis of our research question: How relevant is stage-gate for R&D today?
Drawing on empirical studies of innovation projects, we evaluate the stage-gate model in three case studies. One large electronics manufacturer developing aerospace electronics had success applying a stage gate-model at the programme level, and the Scrum method for managing project teams. A university medical technology innovation centre used stage-gate to manage its project portfolio; preferring to critique individual project progress in terms of Technology Readiness Levels (Mankins, 1995). Managers within an innovative and fast-growing food manufacturer reported that the stage gate-model was not appropriate due to the rapidly changing information inputs from retailers, ingredient suppliers and contract manufacturers.
This two year joint research project brings together researchers from three universities: Liverpool, Portsmouth and Southampton each with different perspectives on R&D management and new product development. For example, one of the researchers’ early career was as a research chemist within industrial R&D, for another it was as a manufacturing engineer. The researchers were able to draw on the expertise within their own research groups to assemble eighteen company cases of new product development using stage-gate. From this group we selected three illustrative cases. The purpose of this paper is to examine evidence from innovation practice across diverse industry sectors. The breadth of expertise of the researchers, across a wide range of industries, has partly formed our rationale for selection of our case studies. In particular we wanted to use cases with very different methods for managing innovation. This requirement for diversity informed our case study selection.
Our cases provide evidence from three very different industrial sectors that weaknesses with stage gate models persist. Our analysis of the literature also suggests that proponents of the stage-gate approach continue to overstate its suitability for all sectors and all firms. The stage-gate process is also not presented as one option within a suite of process types, but rather as an always-suitable process framework that can be adapted. This is in direct contrast with current industry practice and with current guidance on project management. Recognising that, like any framework, it has its limitations is a first step towards wider acceptance. There is large agreement that it is well suited to product development in known markets with known solutions. The major debate within the field is whether the limitations of the stage-gate approach are largely due to poor implementation or whether there is a more fundamental limitation. Our cases support the existing literature that shows that stage implementation involves cross-functional teams, concurrent engineering, and periodic business reviews. But, arguably this is where the difficulties arise. While it is a useful product management tool it does not adequately address the interrelated elements that promote successful innovation.
Contribution to Scholarship
Our research contributes to the stream of literature on stage-gate approaches to new product development (Cooper 2014; Wysocki 2014; Van Oorschot, et. al., 2018). We identify chronic limitations of stage-gate and suggest that it is inappropriate and inadequate to deal with the three contemporary innovation challenges today: i) big data; ii) agile hybrid systems; iii) open innovation. We show that firms require a faster and more adaptive response to changing customer needs. In some projects the new hybrid model is recommended. In other projects, a much looser less structured approach seems to deliver better team communication, improved development productivity, and a faster to market response. Above all we show stage-gate overstates it claim to be appropriate for all firms for all projects.
Contribution to Practice
Stage-gate systems have unquestionably been successfully and are, in themselves, an example of management innovation (cf. Birkinshaw et al., 2008). However, stage-gate systems originated in what now seems a different era of business. The philosophy of rational management that lies at their core increasing seems unsuited to the complexity and speed of contemporary innovation challenges. The complexity of innovation cannot be simply resolved to "stages" and "gates".
Track 10.1 - The Future of R&D and Innovation.
Our research question: How relevant is stage-gate for R&D today?
Birkinshaw, J., Hamel, G., Mol, M. 2008. Management Innovation. Academy of Management Review, 33 (4), 825-845.
Cooper, R. G. 2014. What’s Next?: After Stage-Gate. Research-Technology Management 57 (1): 20–31.
Cooper, R., Edgett, S., & Kleinschmidt, E. (2001). Portfolio management for new product development: results of an industry practices study. r&D Management, 31(4), 361-380.
Conforto, E. C., & Amaral, D. C. (2016). Agile project management and stage-gate model—A hybrid framework for technology-based companies. Journal of Engineering and Technology Management, 40, 1-14.
Griffin, A., and J. R. Hauser. 1996. Integrating R&D and Marketing: a review and analysis of the Literature. Journal of Product Innovation Management 13: 191–215.
Mankins, J. C. (1995). Technology readiness levels. White Paper, April, 6.Wysocki, R. K. 2014. Effective Project Management: Traditional, Agile, Extreme. 7th ed. Indianapolis, Indiana: John Wiley & Sons.
Van Oorschot, K., Eling, K., &Langerak, F. 2018. Measuring the Knowns to Manage the Unknown: How to Choose the Gate Timing Strategy in NPD Projects. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 35(2), 164-183.