A socio-technical analysis of work with ideas in NPD: an industrial case study

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The work with ideas is perceived by both academics and industry to be an important element in new product development and has thus been the subject of investigation in many different research fields. In this paper, we investigate a specific case showing how a successful product was developed based on piecing together a number of ideas that were developed and disseminated in a large industrial company. We do this through an in-depth case study of the development of the energy-labeled circulation pump Alpha Pro, developed by one of the world’s leading pump manufacturers, Grundfos. Using a socio-technical approach, we focus especially on the actors involved and the contextual factors, and less on the detailed development of technical ideas. In our study, we observe that (1) ideas are pieced together from previous ideas and results; (2) ideas are implemented through continuous mobilization of support and development of legitimate arguments; and (3) idea work is also a socio-technical process, because contextual factors matter. We observe that idea work is an ongoing process undertaken across different projects, actors, departments, strategies, and visions within Grundfos, while also involving external actors outside Grundfos. Based on our socio-technical approach and observations, we begin to develop a broader understanding of idea work in new product development and sketch an analytical framework that can be used to make socio-technical analyses of product development projects in future research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalResearch in Engineering Design
Pages (from-to)411–427
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Bibliographical note

This research is based on the first author’s PhD project, which is funded by Grundfos Management A/S, the Technical University of Denmark, and the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Development, with one-third each.


  • New product development
  • Early phases
  • Idea work
  • Socio-technical analysis
  • Case study

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