How Do Knowledge Processes Support Innovation in the Sportswear Industry?
Most of the process innovations happen within the production, logistic practises and IT system developments in the apparel industry; there was little innovations seen in the product design and development stages. These cutting edge experiments were primarily conducted in textile, performance and sportswear industries, and targeted new fibre, fabric or technical apparel innovation. Fashion product innovations were significant in multi functional, lightweight, smart fibre developments, electro-conductive materials, eco-friendly, organic and sustainability trends in fibres and fabrics. Design wise multifunctional seamless knits, stitch free, welded and bonded garments, and body hugging thermal products were highlighted.
Sole business is a continuous innovation; one innovation leads to another by bringing about continuous innovations and upgrading via successful knowledge creation (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995:5). Knowledge can be seen as the resource of innovation, yet at other times, it can be seen as a constraint on firm growth. Therefore, the role of knowledge in the organisation is conflicted. Ultimately, however, organisations can gain knowledge from different sources, significantly from exploiting their experiences of past learning and developing new knowledge. Consequently, the overall purpose of this study is to investigate the central role of knowledge creation in design innovation in the fashion industry (i.e sportswear development) not on knowledge per se.
Compared to similar previous research, it can be seen that technical related fashion product development (PD) requires broad cross industrial knowledge that strengthens innovation and firm performance. Many influential studies in knowledge management (KM) and innovation have focused on automotive and electronics industries (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; Von Krogh et al, 2000) and industrial design firms such as IBM, IDEO and Design Continuum (Hargadon et al, 1997, 2006). There were some historical examples of Edison”s Menlo park lab (Hargadon cited Millard, 2006) and some historical inventors of new PD routinely combined new and old ideas to embed sole designs (Von Krogh et al., 2000; McKinley et al., 1999). There is however, little research conducted in the fashion industry within this subject area.
Buyer driven design development has become a more economical and effective way (Gereffi, 1999) of product innovation in the fashion industry in recent years. The paradigm of effective management in fashion design has become one of predicting the needs and wants of the consumer and responding with innovative, well designed and executed products (Little and Plumlee, 2006). Therefore, it is increasingly important to understand the rationale of strategic KM in a fashion design firms in terms of gaining a sustainable advantage within competitive business environments.
The primary concern of this research is to identify firm competences as a whole to embody innovative products through generating and disseminating organizational knowledge and experiences. This project will begin by posing the question, “How does a fashion design firm manage knowledge in sportswear product development and how does the firm continuously innovate?” Moreover, this research will explore how existing knowledge is discovered and shared how knowledge leverages whilst new knowledge is being created.