In keeping with the theme of this book on technological oversights and foresights, this chapter examines the forms of intelligence that can guide the process of developing and commercializing technological innovations. The innovation process is an ambiguous and uncertain journey in which entrepreneurs, with financial support and approval from top managers or investors, undertake a sequence of events to develop and transform a vague novel idea into a concrete implemented reality. Several years of intensive investment and effort are often required to develop an innovation to the point where its end results can be determined. As a consequence, much of the innovation journey involves an adaptive learning process to deal with conditions of ambiguity (i.e., where it is not clear what specific preferences or objectives should be pursued to reach a vague superordinate goal) and uncertainty (i.e., where it is not clear what means of actions will achieve desired outcome goals).
However, two prior field studies of learning processes during innovation development by Van de Ven and Polley (1992) and Garud and Van de Ven (1992) found no evidence of trial-and-error learning during the initial pre-market period of innovation development, but clear evidence of it during the ending market-entry period when the specific innovations were being commercialized and introduced in the market. Trial-and-error learning is an adaptive process in which entrepreneurs continue with their course of action if the outcomes associated with it are positive, and they change their course of action if the associated outcomes are negative.
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