Our research in the field of small group collaboration focuses on creative problem-solving activities and processes. Numerous organizations consider employees' creativity an important success factor; they encourage formation of cross-functional design teams to address wicked and ill-defined problems. Such teams encounter both difficulties and advantages, which have impact on their creative performance. Even though existings methods and paradigms approach and rely on those effects, some aspects of group creativity remain blurred. While observing and supporting design teams, we aim at shedding new light on the creative group processes in various organizational contexts.
In our research, we work with teams following the Design Thinking (DT) paradigm. It forms an instntiation of the innovation by design approach and is, with growing popularity, applied by organizations to address the demands of the rapidly changing markets. Creative performance of dedicated teams plays an important role in such settings, and requires close consideration to manage the processes successfully.
DT is a human-centered approach laid out along a structured process to produce breakthrough innovation with value to organizations and large impact on the society. It is an iterative procedure addressing need-finding, ideation, prototyping, testing, and (re-)defining the problem. This cycle is applied repeatedly along a sequence of milestones starting with a design space exploration, followed by long divergent and convergent phases, until finalization in a single prototype. Specificity of this approach lies in its demand for high ambiguity of ideas and prototypes to be achieved in the first stage of the project, and number of choices to be made along the way towards the final solution. While this approach has potential to result in highly innovative solutions, moderating and managing it poses difficulties only rarely encountered in more traditional project teams.
We successfully apply DT in a numbers of contexts, ranging from purely educational ones (students), mixed ones (students and industry), and research-and-development ones (industry and scientists). This gives us a great opportunity to challenge the assumptions of the paradigm and intervene when required, thus adding to the success of the projects and producing valuable findings.