DS 110: Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2021), VIA Design, VIA University in Herning, Denmark. 9th -10th September 2021

Year: 2021
Editor: Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik; Buck, Lyndon
Author: Persaud, Stefan; Prakash, Shreyas; Flipsen, Bas
Series: E&PDE
Institution: Technical University Delft, Netherlands, The
Section: Addressing Ethical and Social Issues in Design Education
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2021.64
ISBN: 978-1-912254-14-9


In the Integrated Product Design master’s in Industrial Design Engineering at Technical University Delft, there is a growing diversity in students. Last year the part of international students has increased to more than a third. The diversity shows itself in different nationalities, prior education and socio-emotional aspects. In one of the master’s courses Advanced Embodiment Design (AED), students cooperate in teams on a client-based design project for one semester (21 European Credits). The student-teams are supervised by coaches on a weekly basis. In recent years we increasingly noticed that the diversity can lead to complications within the various teams. Examples are miscommunication, frustration and sometimes interpersonal conflicts. This growing diversity between the team members strongly appeals to their ability to deal with these complications constructively. In our previous research (Flipsen, Persaud, 2019), we described the AED project vision. The focus of coaching student-teams is on functioning in a healthy cooperative way and to a lesser extent on content and project results. We kept track of their performance via a KPI tracking system to quickly identify troublesome groups and individuals and help them to get back-on-track as soon as possible. By tracking the student-teams’ performance and discussing them in the weekly coach meetings, we pinpointed four typical problems occurring in the development of student-groups becoming highly functioning teams. Out of this research we identified four aspects affecting the team dynamics within the AED project team. In this case study we focus on one team that addressed two aspects which frustrated the team dynamics and flow of the project. The student-team consisted of three different non-Dutch nationalities and was coached by a Dutch coach. Furthermore there was a great difference between the previous schooling of the different team members and different perspectives on the design approach. We used Dialogue techniques and the Theory U framework to support students shift conversations from politeness or debate to reflective inquiry conversation which led to generative creative conversations. In this process of dialogue, the coach helped the student team to move from habits of judgement to seeing each other with a more open mind. Finally the team progressed to sensing each other with more empathy and compassion which resulted in a more healthy collaborative team, incorporating their differences as an opportunity for generating design solutions. This paper presents the case study of this student design-team where ‘Design Approach’ and conflicting ‘Cultural Differences’ made this group perform at a lower level. We describe the composition of the group, their different design approaches, the theory underlying the intervention of the team dynamics expert and the interventions that lead to drastic improvement and resulted in the team winning the iF Design Talent Award 2020.

Keywords: Team performance, diversity, design teams, cooperation, dialogue


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