Sperry Management Consulting

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Many new products that were originally welcomed for addressing customer requirements and greater societal needs turn out to have severe negative consequences. In some instances, manufacturers of these products have knowingly tolerated information about negative product impact. In other cases, however, product developer were uncertain about or unaware of the of the far-reaching and indirect effects of their product designs on diverse stakeholders because of cognitive limitations, role expectations, and limited stakeholder engagement. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) aims to solve this problem by improving decision-makers knowledge about and empathy for stakeholder concerns. However, it does not provide systematic approaches for integrating and applying stakeholder knowledge into the product development process. To address this gap, this paper proposes a novel approach for bridging stakeholder engagement and product planning that is based on Fuzzy Cognitive Map (FCM) modeling. The method helps product planners to systematically capture, understand, and assess stakeholder needs and their interdependencies and thus supports the design and selection of product concepts that avoid corporate irresponsibility. For illustration purposes, the method is used for planning alternative product concepts for renewable energy systems in an urban EcoDistrict.