Collaborative Research: Mapping the High Performance Design Team 'Genome'

Project: Research project

Project Details


Engineering design is a social-technical activity commonly practiced in teams. Understanding how engineers interact and work in teams is central to the understanding of technical innovation, and consequently, to industry efforts to improve the quality of technical innovation in the U.S. In this research, engineering design teams from industry will be directly observed in order to develop a new integrated model of High Performance Design Teams (HPDTs). The behavioral interactions and individual cognitive characteristics of the team members will be assessed, along with the products of the team sessions. The individual characteristics of the team members and their behavioral interactions will be mapped in relation to their performance in terms of innovative design to identify the behavioral building blocks of design teams that produce high performance outcomes. Identification of these behavioral building blocks will have a broad impact on current design practice and future research by providing the basis for developing scientific models of and new tools for improving engineering design teams in complex industry environments. Positive impact on engineering education will occur through transferring to students an explicit understanding of what accounts for high performance design and how one behaves in order to achieve it.

This project will develop a new model of the building blocks that characterize High Performance Design Teams (HPDTs) based on their behavioral interactions and individual characteristics. Engineering design teams from industry, that will be recruited on a performance gradient from high to low performance, will be observed. Team behaviors will be analyzed using the Interaction Dynamics Notation (IDN), while individual characteristics will be assessed through the Kirton Adaption-Innovation inventory (KAI) and the Engineering ABAKAS (Assessment of Behaviors, Attributes, Knowledge, Attitudes, and Skills). These data will be synthesized with performance data from each team to create a descriptive model of the essential building blocks of High Performance Design Teams (HPDTs). This project will be the first to combine in application the IDN to model team behavioral interactions, the KAI to measure individual cognitive style, and the Engineering ABAKAS to assess engineering innovativeness. The new descriptive model of HPDTs resulting from this novel combination of approaches will have the potential to transform the way engineering design teams in industry are selected, trained, and managed in the search for high quality innovative products and services. The research methods applied will enable engineering and design researchers and practitioners to understand how highly effective teams operate at a granular level based on who they are, how they behave, and what they produce.

Effective start/end date8/1/167/31/21


  • National Science Foundation: $226,416.00


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