Supporting the development of shared understanding in distributed design teams

Philip Cash, Elies A Dekoninck, Saeema Ahmed-Kristensen

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    Distributed teams are an increasingly common feature of engineeringdesign work. One key factor in the success of these teams isthe development of short- and longer-term shared understanding.A lack of shared understanding has been recognized as a significantchallenge, particularly in the context of globally distributed engineeringactivities. A major antecedent for shared understanding isquestion asking and feedback. Building on question-asking theorythis work uses a quasi-experimental study to test the impact of questioningsupport on homogeneous and heterogeneous teams. Theresults show significant improvement in shared understanding forboth team types (27% improvement for heterogeneous and 16%for homogeneous), as well as substantial differences in how thisimprovement is perceived. This extends theoretical insight on thedevelopment of shared understanding and contributes one of fewempirical studies directly comparing homogeneous and heterogeneousteams in the engineering design context. This has implicationsfor how distributed teams can be more effectively supportedin practice, as well as how shared understanding can be facilitated inengineering design.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Engineering Design
    Issue number3
    Pages (from-to)147-170
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • Distributed design
    • Communication
    • Planning
    • Teamwork
    • Design studies


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