Conversation in Engineering Teams
Turning experiences into actions
Author: Holmqvist, Johan
Institution: LuleŒ University of Technology
Companies working with product development in general, and the manufacturing industry in particular, act on the global market. The complexity of collaboration in such an environment has triggered this thesis. A user-centred approach is perceived as a key concern for companies’ innovation practices, whereas engineering teams and higher education typically focus mainly on technical problem-solving. In relation to this context, knowledge management has been recognised in the literature and practice as being undoubtedly beneficial for organisations. Knowledge is a competitive advantage to most organisations today, but it requires more attention to make it actionable. Typically, factual knowledge has a transparent management approach, whereas experience sharing is highly prioritised but not straightforward to manage. Experiences need to be extracted from activities, reflected on, and then recontextualised if they are going to benefit another project. Indeed, the concept of knowledge-driven development incorporates experiences. It is difficult to manage experiences in technical projects, however, because both creation and use are embedded in daily work. The purpose for this research work is thus to investigate knowledge transfer in engineering teams to contribute to the improved capture and formalization of experiences. This thesis relies on empirical data gathered mainly from a manufacturing company working with transport systems and active in a business-to-business environment. The work evolved to focus on two types of projects between which experiences need to be shared. Also individuals’ personal orientation and roles in teams was examined in a student project setting. This thesis contributes to the description and analysis of experience sharing within and between teams in the given context and proposes an approach to support the reflection upon practice in knowledge projects. The importance of a continuous learning process is stressed, but so is also the capability of directed conversations. A demonstrator supporting such activities, called the experience compass, is developed and partly tested. In addition, the rationale of the demonstrator is presented. A set of question relates to the compass and those have been evaluated as a sound basis for experience sharing among company representatives.
Keywords: Knowledge transfer, knowledge sharing, experiences, experience sharing, collaboration, knowledge conversation, knowledge management, engineering design, personal orientation, goal-oriented, insight-oriented