Research Output

Entrepreneurial teams and design thinking: a longitudinal evaluation of success factors

  Design continuously re-defines its meaning. Over the last years, the way designers interpret information, solve problems as well as prototype and express ideas has received increased attention from domains outside of traditional design, especially from the business world. However, much of the design thinking discourse outside of traditional design centres around a few widely-read practitioner books and only builds on a rudimentary understanding of its principles. Likewise, the academic literature only offers a few rigorous investigations of the application of design thinking in the management and innovation domain, especially when it comes to the
development of novice multidisciplinary teams.

Therefore, this thesis provides an evaluation of the influence of the following five key themes discussed in the design thinking literature: Team diversity, iteration, learning styles, creative confidence, and team communication. These themes were explored during a quantitative quasi-experimental research study, which was built on a novel research framework. Data was
collected from 42 German research participants over a period of 10 month.The longitudinal perspective enabled the researcher to illustrate how novices develop design thinking competencies in projects over time.

While investigating team diversity, multidisciplinary teams were found to produce significantly better project outcomes than single-discipline teams. On the other hand, diversity of personality traits was not found to have a significant effect on the final performance of teams. The exploration of iteration behaviour revealed that multidisciplinary teams did not iterate significantly more than single-discipline teams. In addition, more experienced participants approached design thinking projects slightly less iteratively than
novices. Overall, the degree of iteration was not found to have a significant effect on the final team performance. Regarding the use of different learning styles, it was discovered that, teams with a balance of learning styles achieved significantly better project outcomes than less-balanced teams. In terms of learning styles, participants approached design thinking tasks mainly through rational conceptualisation rather than concrete experience. The
analysis of individual and team confidence showed that creative confidence developed slowly and linearly over the course of a project, but only partly carried over to new project and team settings. Furthermore, no evidence was found that higher levels of creative confidence directly influenced the quality of the project outcomes. The investigation of team communication revealed that the importance of individuals in design thinking teams significantly
changed over the course of a project. Contrary to previous assumptions, high degrees of internal team cohesion were found to have a significant negative effect on project outcomes.

While several of these findings clarify and reiterate existing design thinking theory, others call for an adjustment of theory and highlight the need for more rigorous research. Several recommendations are offered for practitioners, educators, and researchers on how to incorporate the presented findings into practice and future research.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    31 May 2017

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    PN Literature (General)

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    607 Education, research & related topics

  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Huber, F. Entrepreneurial teams and design thinking: a longitudinal evaluation of success factors. (Thesis). Edinburgh Napier University. Retrieved from



Research, problem solving, business, team diversity, iteration, learning styles, creative confidence, team communication.

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