Organizational knowledge creation, as reflected in new product/service development, is a vital process for firms to master. Critical to the development of new products/services is the management of the front-end phase, which crucially determines the eventual fate of a new product/service idea. However, studies on how knowledge is created at the front-end of the new product development process are rare. This empirical paper addresses this gap by focusing on knowledge conceptualization - where new knowledge from its generation is crystallized into a concrete and explicit form. Employing a qualitative methodology, the paper examines ten discontinuous projects and develops a front-end knowledge conceptualization framework. The framework consists of the identified knowledge conceptualization stages and illuminates the pattern of overlaps, outcomes, contributors, knowledge, interactions and volatility across each stage. Our main contribution is a knowledge-based appreciation of the dynamic and interactive nature of the new product/service development's front-end phase in the context of discontinuous innovations, and thence the paper provides clear managerial learning points for the effective management of this phase. © 2012 The Author(s). British Journal of Management © 2012 British Academy of Management.