Exploring organisational market learning for innovation within consumer markets: towards a theoretical model



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The centrality of the role of innovation in economic prosperity and organisational renewal has long been recognised. Marketing success is contingent upon the adoption of innovations in new services, new products, processes and ideas. In turn this is dependent upon the consumers’ acceptance and perception of the innovation. Thus understanding consumers and market learning are frequently viewed as a precursor to innovation. There is a consensus view in the literature that consumers should be actively involved in the innovation process and should not be treated as ‘passive’ objects of study. Changes in the market place, combined with the high failure rate of innovations, require organisations to be responsive to changing consumer needs and to adopt both traditional and new methods of market learning. This thesis explores the issue of market learning for innovation in the context of a new marketing, consumption-driven era. The purpose of the study is to explore and contribute to understanding of what market learning processes for innovation are being utilised within global, UK-based fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) organisations. In addition it examines the modes of consumer involvement in the innovation process. In pursuit of this aim the research involved a preliminary study using a combination of qualitative research techniques and included a co-development workshop with consumers and organisations. The main phase of the exploratory research was conducted using the case study methodology. Three co-operators, all global FMCG organisations, assisted in the research. Within each organisation an innovation project was identified, and the market learning processes and consumer involvement was investigated. The data was analysed using a conceptual framework from the extant literature, which reflects the research questions, and key constructs were elicited. The findings and contribution of the study are expressed in the form of an empirically grounded model that combines theories of product innovation management and market orientation with consumer involvement. A common thread running through the model is that of creativity and the use of intuition and tacit knowledge for learning and innovation. In addition, this research provides new insights into the ‘fuzzy-front end’, of the innovation process, where a considerable amount of direct and indirect consumer involvement is taking place. A typology of consumer involvement ranging from ‘passive’ to ‘active’ involvement is also developed and presented. This empirical research is a theory building study and provides opportunities for further research, which are discussed alongside its limitations.


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