Managing the Unmanageable: The Fuzzy Front End of Innovation

Fiona Schweitzer, Oliver Gassmann

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingsChapter

16 Citations (Scopus)


Innovation is apparently considered as vital, since it is one of the highest priorities of top management according to a recent CEO survey. Most managers work on the late innovation process, which is characterized by defined processes, clear procedures, and documented responsibilities and roles, despite knowing that the real leverage in generating new ideas and improving the competitiveness of innovation lies in the early stages, the so-called 'fuzzy front end of innovation' (FFEI). Rather than relying on long decision times before a project really starts, a company has to take the decision which opportunities and ideas to select and to pursue fast, even if this is associated with uncertainty and risk. The right mix of methods and processes to gather and analyze information can help to identify drivers of risk, reduce uncertainties, and thus take some fuzziness out of the front end of innovation, while at the same time entrepreneurial spirit that accepts risk and welcomes risk-taking is needed. Process leadership is not unimportant either, but the key capability is being good at managing people, i.e., finding the right people, setting up a good network, coaching the teams, identifying the creative potential of individuals, and providing them with a strong vision and direction. For these reasons, effectively managing the fuzzy front end of innovation is one of the most important, and simultaneously challenging, activities of innovation managers.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationManagement of the Fuzzy Front End of Innovation
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9783319010564
ISBN (Print)3319010557, 9783319010557
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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