Starting from the early 1980s, a growing emphasis has been placed on the role of product innovation management as a potential source of competitive advantage. For more than one decade, however, innovation management literature remained almost totally focused on how new product development (NPD) projects, seen as isolated efforts, are managed and organised. In the 1990s, starting from the example of successful practices, new approaches to product innovation emerged calling for an enlargement of the traditional boundaries of product innovation. Attention progressively shifted from the single product to families of related products over time, driven by the consideration that planning innovation at product family level is essential to cope with the competitive pressure to renew and enlarge the product range. Evidence from excellent companies also showed that relevant competitive advantages can be gained by extending innovation to later phases in the product life‐cycle. Manufacturing, maintenance and service, for instance, though not part of the development process itself, can provide valuable feedback and additional opportunities to innovate products. Both these approaches can be explained by looking at NPD projects as steps within a corporate‐wide process of knowledge creation, embodiment and transfer to which Bartezzaghi et al. (1998) refer as continuous product innovation (CPI). In this perspective, innovation is a continuous and cross‐functional process of learning and improvement involving and integrating a growing number of competencies inside and outside the organisational boundaries. Stimulating knowledge creation, embodiment and transfer to foster innovation become one of the primary managerial tasks. Hence the need for new and more adequate management models and tools. Based on evidence from ten explorative studies, this paper explains how companies can facilitate CPI by stimulating adequate behaviours at organisational level.
- Product innovation