Research shows that managers' cognitive structures influence their decisions and firm outcomes, and that managers' shared understanding is critical to new product success. Yet, little is known about the content and structure of managers' knowledge regarding their business's market orientation (MO) and how such orientation relates to new product development. By drawing from research on managerial cognition, we suggest that an examination of managers' cognitive maps of their business's MO can provide valuable insights. First, cognitive maps provide information regarding the relative ranking of concepts that managers consider important to new product success. Second, they offer insights about the relationship among concepts by illustrating the causal logic flow, centrality, and strength of the association between concepts. Finally, cognitive maps reveal a gestalt or pattern of managers' understandings. This pattern provides an overall view of their perceptions of their firms' MO. Accordingly, the purpose of this article is to begin developing theory to explain the nature and extent of the sharing of managers' understanding of their business's MO across a company within the context of new product development. We develop several theoretical propositions using established research on market orientation and an exploratory investigation of the cognitive maps of a stratified sample of thirty managers of a highly successful frozen food division of a multinational company. We argue that managers of innovative companies with a history of successful new products in moderately dynamic industries will have established market orientations, as reflected in cognitive maps, which emphasize customer orientations more than competitor or technological orientations. Moreover, we suggest that managers will consistently recognize the importance of interfunctional coordination because it influences the firm's orientations towards customers, competitors, and technology by facilitating sharing of important market information necessary for successful new product development. Furthermore, we propose that the division of labor and functional specialization in a company will result in predictable differences across cognitive maps of managers in different functions and levels of the organization. For example, senior managers are likely to have a more balanced and integrated MO than junior managers, due to their knowledge of organization wide issues. The article also proposes an agenda for scholars interested in investigating the relationship between managers' cognitive maps of their company's market orientation and new product success. We note the importance of studying managers' cognitive structures in different types of industries over time, and how managers' cognitive structures may relate to their company's ability to learn. Managers could use cognitive mapping to recognize and evaluate beliefs that inhibit the sharing and interpretation of information between managers, departments, and levels and could design appropriate interventions.
The Journal of Product Innovation Management – Wiley
Published: Jul 1, 2002
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