Face to Face with Ambiguity and Diversity: Dynamics of Interdisciplinary Team Work in Different Phases of Explorative New Product Development Projects

Year: 2014
Editor: Miko Laakso, Kalevi Ekman
Author: Satu Rekonen
Series: NordDESIGN
Institution: Aalto University, Finland
Section: Collaboration, communication and co-creation in design and development
Page(s): 252-261
ISBN: 978-1-904670-58-2


This study investigates the dynamics of interdisciplinary teamwork in explorative New Product Development projects and the challenges this demanding context sets for the individuals working in the team. The study adopted a longitudinal, qualitative research approach comparing the front-end and later development phases of two NPD projects. Altogether 13 semi-structured interviews were conducted. The results suggest that individuals working in interdisciplinary NPD project teams need to deal with high level of ambiguity and uncertainty related to the project itself, the diverse ways of working and thinking due to the different educational backgrounds, but also to one’s own role in the project. Role ambiguity was noted to have far-reaching effects, including how much freedom and autonomy team members were willing to allow for each other. The findings suggest putting effort early on in the project on purposefully establishing ways of working that support open communication and subsequently help diminish ambiguity.

Keywords: Interdisciplinary teamwork, new product development, front-end phase, ambiguity


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