Rational versus intuitive gatekeeping: Escalation of commitment in the front end of NPD

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The unwillingness of a gatekeeper to let go of a fruitless new product development (NPD) project wastes valuable resources and hampers NPD performance. The onset of such escalation of commitment is likely to occur already in the front end of NPD, where high ambiguity and complexity make it hard to distinguish fruitless from potentially successful projects. This study investigates if a gatekeeper's thinking style-whether they think rationally or whether they follow their intuition-can prevent escalation of commitment in the front end. Theory on cognition provides arguments for and against either thinking style's influence on escalation of commitment, but empirical evidence on this matter is lacking. Our study demonstrates that gatekeepers who think rationally are less likely to escalate their commitment than those who follow their intuition. This result holds both in a correlational study of dispositional thinking styles, as well as in an individual-level randomized experiment in which the thinking style of experienced practitioners before they take gate decisions is induced. Our findings provide ample opportunities for improving existing front end gate review practices, such as allocating candidates for gatekeeper positions based on their thinking style, training gatekeepers to think rationally, and increasing the use of gate-decision rules and templates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)890-907
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Product Innovation Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


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