Concerns for companies’ ability to innovate are increasingly focused on so called ‘front-end innovation’ being identified as a space where ideas for new products are created, exchanged and developed. The work with product ideas is claimed as being crucial to the innovation process in companies. New product ideas come from a variety of sources, but how do they actually emerge, develop, gain momentum and stabilise (van de Ven 1986) in an organisational setting including a diversity of knowledge domains and perspectives? This paper illustrates how an STS approach including notions of translation of actor networks (Callon 1986), object worlds (Bucciarelli 2005) and political process theory (Dawson et al 2000) can inform the staging of innovative work with product ideas. The paper reports on an in-depth case study of the development of a new product, the so called “A” labelled Alpha Pro circulation pump presented in 2005 as the first energy labelled circulation pump on the market. It shows how a range of diverse ideas and perspectives have been developed, promoted, and tried out over a 20 year time span before a market was co-developed with the pump. The single case study is conducted in the Danish based company Grundfos, a global enterprise developing and manufacturing a wide range of pumps for domestic and industry purposes. The empirical data has mainly been collected through interviews. Additional to the interviews internal written documentation, EU and industry reports, public newspaper articles and different websites has been used to gather information about the case We will argue that actors involved in idea work and their interaction such as negotiating different understandings of what constitutes a qualified idea as well as the continuous mobilization of support to their ideas among a range of players are key elements in understanding the undertaking of idea work. Furthermore, we will stress that the work with ideas is an intricate affair involving complex interaction between many different organizational functions, knowledge domains and actors with differing perspectives on design and innovation. The paper contributes to the STS literature by the application of actor-network theory and the notion of object worlds in the study of innovative processes and the work with ideas. The constitution of ideas is here portrayed as an intricate and highly political process of translation. In this process, ideas are exchanged between shifting object worlds of specialised knowledge areas gaining support and momentum through a number of successive translations of what is perceived as key arguments for the energy saving pump.
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2009 Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science, 2009