University of Twente Student Theses


The Application of Design Thinking in the Automotive Industry - An Exploratory Study

Simon, Ellen (2015) The Application of Design Thinking in the Automotive Industry - An Exploratory Study.

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Abstract:The purpose of this master thesis is to explore the application of Design Thinking in the automotive industry in order to explain which factors influence the innovativeness of Design Thinking teams. Motivation / theoretical framework: Seeking for innovation leadership, automotive manufacturers apply Design Thinking to enhance their competitiveness. Design Thinking is a multidisciplinary team-based methodology that adopts design principles to business management. Design Thinking teams produce innovative outcomes by working together in stimulating environments. In the literature and practice, however, it is not clear, what constitutes the relationship between the application of Design Thinking and team’s innovativeness. Design / methodology / approach: A grounded theory and template analysis approach is used to answer the research question. 15 semi-structured interviews with employees of a car manufacturer deliver practical insights about which factors and in which direction they influence the link. In sum, 14 Design Thinking projects were examined. By a differentiation of highly and less innovative projects, the study provides findings about how the factors differ in these clusters. Findings: A full conceptual model explains influencing factors on a macro, meso and micro level. On a macro level, the organizational environment is a relevant factor for team’s innovativeness. In detail, organizational encouragement, supervisory encouragement, freedom and challenging work enhance innovative team outcomes. In contrary, organizational impediments weakens the project’s success. With regard to pressure and resources an inverted u-shaped relationship is found. Examining the meso level, team climate, team collaboration and leadership are relevant factors for team’s innovativeness. Among all factors, the data analysis reveals that team climate is the most important factor. Moreover, team collaboration includes the positive factors interaction and intra-organizational network as well as the negative factor discrepancy. Transformational leadership is a beneficial leadership style whereas transactional and laissez-faire are described to be detrimental to DT team’s success. At the micro level, intrinsic motivation supports whereas extrinsic motivation reduces team’s innovativeness. The data analysis revealed that supervisory encouragement and freedom were only applicable to highly innovative projects. In contrast, in less innovative projects discrepancy and laissez-faire leadership decreased the innovative capability of the Design Thinking teams. Theoretical / practical contribution: The literature focuses on elements of Design Thinking and how organizations profit from its application. However, literature about influencing factors of Design Thinking team’s innovativeness is rare. This thesis elaborates on this gap. Furthermore, the findings show which factors are especially relevant aiming at radical innovation including a comparison of Design Thinking and other innovation teams (such as R&D and NPD teams). In practice, this thesis provides managers and decision-makers of multinationals with practical recommendations about how to improve the implementation of Design Thinking.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
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