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Title: Design leadership and communication: Characteristics and abilities of design leaders communicating design to non-designers during the fuzzy front end of new product development
Authors: Han, Koogin
Advisors: Lamb, B
Holland, R
Keywords: Competent design communicator;Leading NPD process by a designer;Collaboration for NPD between designers and non designers at FFE;Active listening for better communication;Strong self leadership to practice design communication and non design language
Issue Date: 2014
Abstract: This research investigates the key characteristics of design leaders in the context of New Product Development (NPD) at the Fuzzy Front End (FFE) or early stage of this process. It particularly focuses on how design leaders communicate design to non-designers. It is often observed that designers struggle to communicate design to non-designers. Previous research has identified design leaders as competent design communicators. However, the definition and key characteristics of design leaders remain unclear. By reviewing the literature on leadership studies, design leadership and project leadership, it is evident that no single universal definition of leadership exists. The most common definition is that leaders apply their knowledge and skills to conduct activities and use their traits to influence other people’s actions. Leadership requires different characteristics for different tasks. To understand the characteristics of design leaders, triangulated research was employed at a real-life NPD project involving young designers and non-designers at early stages of NPD as part of the first study. All participants (N=32) were directly observed, interviewed in semi-structured interviews and administered with assistive questionnaires to compare design and non-design participants’ leadership and communication styles. The second study was in-depth, focusing on UK design leaders (N=11) through semi-structured interviews and based on deficiencies in leadership and communicating design, identified from the first study and the literature review. Comparative studies indicate that designers and design leaders vary their attitudes towards non-designers, motivation and communication style. This study highlights the key characteristics of design leaders: an epiphany by experiencing the entire NPD process, interest in the benefits of NPD stakeholders, a good understanding of design competency, reflectively flexible working attitude and strong, active listening. Thus, a conceptual model was formulated and evaluated, able to guide designers who wish to become design leaders and help to enhance design communication and relationships with non-designers.
Description: This thesis was submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and awarded by Brunel University
Appears in Collections:Design
Dept of Design Theses

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