Understanding informal influences on equivocality in the FFE: a social network approach

Polly Rizova, Elliot Maltz, Samir Gupta

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


The fuzzy front-end (FFE) phase of innovation is crucial to the ultimate success of new product and process initiatives. One of the most critical tasks at this stage is addressing the equivocality that teams face in interpreting and making sense of a diverse and conflicting body of facts and information. While a certain level of equivocality is initially beneficial for enhancing the teams’ creativity and preventing early closure, at some point it must be resolved in order for an idea to become a viable NPD project. In this study, we seek to understand the ways in which different types of work-related informal relations which take place in organizations dedicated to technological innovation and their structural properties affect equivocality on project teams in the FFE of innovation. To this end, we employ a social networks perspective. In particular, we examine the effects of two types of social relations and their networks on project equivocality–friendship and technical-advice. Our findings suggest that the density of a project’s friendship network is positively associated with equivocality while we also find evidence that both the density and centralization of the project’s technical-advice network are negatively associated with equivocality. More surprisingly, having on project multiple members who are highly central in the lab’s technical-advice network (“technical stars”), tends to increase equivocality unless balanced with members highly central in the lab’s friendship network (“friendship stars”). In addition to contributing to the scholarship of NPD, FFE, and social networks, our study offers managerial insights into how to structure the communication flows and deploy social networks to address equivocality in the FFE.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2017
EventAnnual Meeting of the Academy of Management 2017 - Atlanta, United States of America
Duration: 4 Aug 20178 Aug 2017
Conference number: 77th


ConferenceAnnual Meeting of the Academy of Management 2017
Abbreviated titleAoM 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited States of America

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