Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A unified innovation process model for engineering designers and managers
by Skogstad, Philipp Leo Stefan, Ph.D., Stanford University, 2009, 212; 3364513
Abstract (Summary)

Leaders in business, engineering and politics consistently preach the need for innovative solutions to solve today's problems and to strengthen the global economy. At the same time, there is relatively little understanding of how people create new concepts during the front-end of innovation. Innovation management research has traditionally been centered around the design process from an economic point of view, whereas engineering research has focused on modeling the path of solution evolution. The research presented in this dissertation combines these two distinct perspectives into a unified model. This model describes how designers gain the insights needed to create novel solutions and how reviewers can have both positive and negative effects on the design process. The supporting research focuses on the largely unacknowledged negative effects.

The research is based on evidence collected over five years in a globally distributed, graduate level design curriculum that challenges students with realworld problems. Based on a study of the top-performing teams, it has been found that these teams gained their key insights while building and testing prototypes, rather than while deliberating the possible merits of ideas. It is therefore hypothesized that designers who move promptly and frequently from planning to execution will develop more innovative solutions to design problems. Furthermore, interviews with members and reviewers of these design teams, and an analysis of their design processes, reveal that these teams regularly moved towards executing an idea despite advice to the contrary from reviewers or experts. This suggests that reviewers or experts who censor ideas, whether knowingly or unknowingly, before they can be tested have a marked detrimental effect on the ability of designers to gain insights.

A model of the design process that fuses the designer's and the reviewer's point of view has been developed. This model represents a kernel that is expected to apply universally to all phases and levels of the design process. It includes three activities (Plan, Execute, Synthesize) and the feedback pathways that are initiated by the designers themselves, as well as those activated by outside reviewers. The model, which provides a logical explanation for the discoveries above, is supplemented and clarified by an ontology. This ontology specifies the model's actors, functions, and rules in addition to demonstrating its internal consistency.

The model is proposed as a possible explanation for the consistent innovative success of companies such as 3M, Google or Genentech. It is also expected to serve as a training tool for managers and designers alike and as an instrumentation map for future research in the fields of both management and design.

The hypotheses have also been tested quantitatively by examining the relationships between design performance, documented design activities, and communication with reviewers and coaches. The analysis shows that transitions from planning to execution and breadth of search for solutions correlate positively and significantly with design performance. It also shows that communication by coaches correlates positively and significantly with design activity, especially prototyping, and that communication by a particular reviewer, who is a self-proclaimed 'anti-censor', correlates positively and significantly with design performance.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Leifer, Larry
Commitee:
School: Stanford University
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-B 70/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Management, Mechanical engineering, Operations research
Keywords: Design performance, Engineering design, Innovation management
Publication Number: 3364513
ISBN: 9781109243062
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