Systematic Design Methods and the Creative Performance of New Product Teams: Do They Contradict or Complement Each Other?

  • Leenders R
  • van Engelen J
  • Kratzer J
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Can organizations exert control and provide structure for NPD activities while at the same time encouraging and managing creative performance? Any new product development (NPD) project requires some level of creative effort. In new product development, creative performance is of preeminent importance. Most NPD pro- jects are executed with the NPD team as the organizational nucleus. As a result, managing creativity in NPD thus implies managing the creativity of NPD teams. Besides having to manage creative performance, companies are generally also con- cerned with improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the NPD process. Modern NPD projects therefore have the need for an approach that can be planned, opti- mized, and verified. As a consequence, systematic design methods have become widely used in NPD. In this article conceptual model is developed of the effect of modern design methodology on the creative performance of NPD teams. First, it is argued that the effect of systematic design methodology on NPD team creativity is mediated by the communication patterns of the NPD team. It is then proposed that four principles underlie modern design methodology: hierarchical decomposition, systematic variation, satisficing, and discursiveness. These principles affect NPD communication by, respectively, influencing the establishment of subgroups, the frequency of communication, the level of agreement or disagreement in the team, and the level of centralization of communication. Next, arguments are presented of how each of these four communicational characteristics shapes the creative per- formance of NPD teams. This second part of the conceptual model is tested em- pirically. This is done by studying the communication patterns in 44 NPD teams, employing social network analysis tools. These patterns of communication are then related to team-level creative performance through a set of regression analyses. The main conclusion of the article is that the design principles work together and need to be considered as an integrated whole: the creative performance of NPD teams can only effectively be managed by using and aligning all four of them.

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  • Roger Th. A. J. Leenders

  • Jo M. L. van Engelen

  • Jan Kratzer

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