The Learning Zone in New Product Development
journal contributionposted on 26.04.2016, 00:00 by A.S. Cui, C Kwong, R Calantone
New information is the fuel that allows organizations to innovate. Yet the generation of new information may yield little benefit if existing practices prevent the firm from integrating new insights effectively. This study provides evidence that existing knowledge has both an enhancement effect that improves the firm’s ability to benefit from new information, and an inhibition effect that lowers its motivation to learn. Firms that utilize a moderate level of existing knowledge benefit from new information more than firms that rely too little or too much upon existing knowledge. We call this optimal circumstance the “learning zone”. Furthermore, we find that the moderating effects of existing knowledge are stronger for new products of lower novelty that provide a similar learning context. In addition, as novelty increases, the prominence of the enhancement effect increases, whereas the inhibition effect becomes less prevalent. Highly novel products that are able to utilize existing knowledge are therefore most likely to benefit from new information. Existing technical knowledge is also found to inhibit the use of new information to a greater degree than market knowledge. The findings suggest that organizations should evaluate their reliance on existing knowledge and create a learning zone that provides the best condition for innovation.