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Towards Semi-Virtual Design Thinking - Creativity in Dispersed Multicultural and Multidisciplinary Innovation Project Teams

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Abstract

This paper aims at examining whether the innovation approach Design Thinking (DT), which is usually performed in an analogue setting, can also be performed in a semi-virtual setting. We conducted an experiment comparing a fully analogue to a semi-virtual DT workshop with overall 59 participants from 27 different countries and 11 different disciplines separated into an experimental- and control group. For the evaluation, we composed items from the psychological construct of Shared Mental Models (SMM) and discussed existing Media Theories in order to draw conclusions on the impact of performing DT semi-virtually in regard to using a digital whiteboard. Against our expectations and assumptions from theory, we reveal that a semi-virtual DT workshop can lead to high levels of shared understanding, satisfaction and perceived effectiveness. We argue that the applied digital whiteboard supports a creative semi-virtual collaboration due to its advanced functionalities, which supports the Media Richness Theory.
Towards Semi-Virtual Design Thinking Creativity in Dispersed
Multicultural and Multidisciplinary Innovation Project Teams
Beke Redlich1, David Dorawa1, Dominik Siemon2, Christoph Lattemann1
1Jacobs University gGmbH 2University of Braunschweig
b.redlich|d.dorawa|c.lattemann@jacobs-university.de, d.siemon@tu-braunschweig.de
Abstract
This paper aims at examining whether the
innovation approach Design Thinking (DT), which is
usually performed in an analogue setting, can also be
performed in a semi-virtual setting. We conducted an
experiment comparing a fully analogue to a semi-
virtual DT workshop with overall 59 participants from
27 different countries and 11 different disciplines
separated into an experimental- and control group.
For the evaluation, we composed items from the
psychological construct of Shared Mental Models
(SMM) and discussed existing Media Theories in order
to draw conclusions on the impact of performing DT
semi-virtually in regard to using a digital whiteboard.
Against our expectations and assumptions from theory,
we reveal that a semi-virtual DT workshop can lead to
high levels of shared understanding, satisfaction and
perceived effectiveness. We argue that the applied
digital whiteboard supports a creative semi-virtual
collaboration due to its advanced functionalities,
which supports the Media Richness Theory.
1. Introduction
Since the ongoing advancement of Information and
Communication Technology (ICT), communication
and collaboration holds new opportunities for teams to
communicate and collaborate time- and/or location
independent for different business purposes. A need for
face-to-face collaboration becomes less necessary as
audio and video-chat, shared documents, and other
collaborative applications support the constantly rising
number of virtual teams [1]. Furthermore, the
increasing competition pressures companies to
continuously innovate to find creative solutions [2].
Therefore, team creativity in virtual collaboration
becomes an important issue for practice to perform and
for science to investigate [3].
Past research focused either on cultural aspects or
on psychological issues and competencies of team
members, which was followed by examinations on
teams and tasks [1]. More recent research emphasizes
the need to analyze explicit innovation projects in
virtual teams instead of testing certain tools [4].
This paper aims at examining whether the
innovation approach Design Thinking (DT), which is
usually performed in an analogue setting, can also be
performed in a semi-virtual setting. DT is an approach
that is inherently based on teamwork, creativity,
collaboration and multidisciplinarity with the objective
of developing innovative products, services or
processes. The overall approach consists of three
dimensions concerning the DT process, DT methods,
and the DT mindset that shapes the interaction [5], [6].
Our paper incorporates research from various
scientific fields on understanding virtual team
performance. We particularly focus on the performance
of creative and innovative virtual team. Therefore, we
conducted an experiment that compared a completely
analogue DT workshop with a semi-virtual DT
workshop. 59 students from 27 different countries and
11 different undergraduate programs participated in
this study. For the evaluation, we referred to items
from the psychological construct of Shared Mental
Models (SMM), in order to examine the level of shared
understanding of team task and goal, satisfaction, and
perceived effectiveness [7][10]. Our research
presented in this paper deals with the underlying
question whether if and how a semi-virtual DT
workshop impacts team interaction in terms of the
above-mentioned items.
Additionally, we evaluated the participants’
application of a provided ICT-based tool and its
functionalities a digital whiteboard with task-specific
functionalities to get a deeper understanding of what
an appropriate ICT tool in our context needs to offer.
In the following section, we will briefly present and
discuss the major theoretical implications on creativity
and virtual teams, DT and innovation as well as SMM.
Additionally, we present a discussion on existing
“Media Theories as the underlying foundation for
further discussions on technology fit. In section 3, we
derive propositions from theory, we introduce the
Proceedings of the 51st Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences |2018
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/49977
ISBN: 978-0-9981331-1-9
(CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
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design of the experiment, the participants and
procedures, measures as well as our results. Section 4
discusses our findings vis-á-vis the Media Theories. In
the closing section, we conclude and provide
suggestions for future research.
2. Semi-Virtual Design Thinking
Our overall intention to facilitating DT semi-
virtually is motivated by several major aspects.
Therefore, we firstly discuss the underlying principles
of DT. Further, we present past research on the link
between creativity and (semi-)virtual teamwork.
Afterwards, we introduce the psychological construct
of SMM and relate this to DT and virtual teams. In the
closing part of this section, we introduce a debate on
Media Theories.
2.1 Creativity, Innovation and Design Thinking
Since on the one hand, dispersed workplaces and
advanced ICT increase the existence of virtual
collaboration, and on the other hand, a rising pressure
for creative and innovative solution development is
putting pressure on companies, there is a need to
transform suitable approaches that successfully enable
both aspects. DT is one approach for innovative
collaboration that made his way successfully in the
business world [11], [12]. DT can be labeled as a
systematic approach that fuses multidisciplinary
problem solving strategies in a sequence of phases that
are shaped with various methods [6], [13], [14].
In summary, DT consists of a DT process, DT
methods, and a DT mindset. The DT process is an
iterative model that is based on phases: a phase for
understanding and observing to build empathy, a phase
for defining a point of view that radically changes the
perspective to user’s needs, an ideation-, prototyping-,
and a testing phase. The order of the phases guarantees
to apply different problem solving techniques
originating from social science, design science, and
engineering. This leads to the inclusion of deductive,
inductive, and abductive reasoning, which encourages
the development of (radical) innovations [13].
DT methods are - to a large extend - existing
methodological approaches, borrowed from different
disciplines, which are individually compiled due to the
initial (design) challenge and team competencies.
Examples are stakeholder analysis, journey maps,
persona, prototyping, etc. [11], [15]–[17].
The DT process and methods are embedded in a
DT mindset. The DT mindset frames the team
interaction such as staying open-minded, leaving
hierarchical orders, thinking outside the box and being
creative as well as fostering multicultural- and
multidisciplinary team arrangements [6], [18]. A
skilled DT coach guarantees that the DT mindset as
well as the DT process and DT methods are applied
during teamwork.
DT is originally performed in analogue settings and
its approach concerning phases, methods and mindset
has proven to be successful for contemporary
challenges companies have to face. We follow Rive
and Karmoker (2016), who argue that an ICT-
supported DT approach can also tackle contemporary
business problems concerning dispersed collaboration
and innovation pressure [19].
As business routines and challenges oftentimes
result in a combination of face-to-face and virtual
meetings during projects due to restrictions of
resources (i.e. time and money), we decided to analyze
the performance of a semi-virtual DT approach.
In principle, there are two approaches to design the
environment for a semi-virtual DT. The technology-
based approach is to examine existing or develop new
ICT tools and test if they fit for DT [20]. The human-
centered approach firstly analyzes the socio-
psychological aspects of collaborative and creative
teamwork and secondly to determine the underlying
technology. We agree with Gilson et al. (2015) in
arguing that diversity and creativity in virtual team
interaction need more examination [1]. Hence, in our
research, we follow the socio-psychological approach.
2.2 Creativity in (Semi-) Virtual Teams
When it comes to performing semi-virtual DT, past
research concerning creativity aspects in virtual
teamwork can be used as guidelines for our
examination.
Virtual teams are constantly defined as being
impacted by two major dimensions, which are
geographical dispersion and technologically mediated
communication [1], [21]. In general, this leads to less
boundaries and an increase in location-independent
collaboration, which is mediated via ICT [1], [22]. We
focus on semi-virtual teamwork as a combination of
face-to-face meetings as well as virtual collaboration.
Past research shows that different types of virtual
teams, such as semi-virtual teams, need further
examination due to their specific needs and functioning
[1], [21]. This is why this paper examines in particular
semi-virtual DT. A pivotal element of DT is the
creativity of the teams and their dynamic in the DT
process.
Comparable to our research and experiment, past
examinations argue that virtual teams are often used
when it comes to specific projects [1]. Nonetheless, an
appropriate examination with semi-virtual teams in
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specific projects, such as creative innovation projects
are still missing.
Nevertheless, the aspect of creativity in virtual
teams is already examined to a certain extent.
Creativity can be defined as “(…) the production of
novel, potentially useful ideas about work products,
practices, services, or procedures[3, p. 539], [23],
[24]. Creative teamwork is fostered by the integration
of diverse opinions, viewpoints, and experiences, etc.,
which can be supported by geographically-dispersed
and diverse team members that contribute to one task
[3], [25][28]. Hence, the opportunity of virtual
collaboration via ICT can positively contribute to
creativity in teams [1], [29]. In contrast, van
Knippenberg and Schippers (2007) found that virtual
collaboration for a shorter time frame might negatively
contribute to the creative performance of a team [3],
[30]. Mediating factors are the cultural diversity in the
team and the number of members, as both factors
negatively influence the complexity of collaboration
[3], [31].
Based on these past findings, we argue that semi-
virtual teamwork in a short-time innovation project
based on DT has a high level of creativity.
2.3 Measuring Semi-Virtual DT with SMM
In order to evaluate our semi-virtual DT approach,
we use the psychological construct of SMM. SMM are
the accumulation of several Mental Models in a team
[32][34]. Mental Models are the internal
representation of external impressions that an
individual is exposed to and which determine the way
someone acts and reacts in situations [32]. When it
comes to teamwork, each team member has an own
Mental Model and over the period of interaction an
alignment of several Mental Models leads to SMM
[35].
SMM are an indicator for successful teamwork and
the evaluation of the measureable construct can state
the level of shared understanding [36], [37]. Past
research shows that especially in diverse team
constellations the level of shared understanding is an
important indicator for success [38]. Furthermore, past
research has shown that a high level of SMM
positively contributes to team creativity in short-term
collaborations, which hence leads to successful
teamwork [10], [39].
De Vreede et al. (2012) defined four categories of
SMM knowledge structures [7]. Past research often
focused on one of four structures, which we follow [7]:
We, therefore, chose the knowledge structure team
task, goal, and performance requirements [7].
Particularly this SMM reflects the object of our
research, because it elucidates team interaction in a
specific short-term project and it refers to the
successful accomplishment of a solution for a given
problem. Exactly this is what DT is about. We measure
“performance requirements” by asking team members
about their “satisfaction” and their “perceived
effectiveness” of the group work.
2.4 Media Theories for ICT Evaluation
In this section, we will discuss Media Theories,
which pinpoint effects on performance of workgroups
applying ICT for collaboration.
There are three Media Theories that are considered
important for our research: The Media Naturalness
Theory (MNT), the Media Synchronicity Theory
(MST), and the Media Richness Theory (MRT) [9],
[40][42].
MNT expands on the idea of human evolution and
argues that the usage of ICT suppresses major elements
of face-to-face communication, which leads to
perceptive barriers [40]. This argumentation does not
take into account that current ICT open the opportunity
for multichannel communication with diverse
opportunities such as synchronous, audio-, and visual
communication [43].
In contrast to MNT, MST argues that
communication can even be improved when a given
ICT allows for the appropriate speed of synchronicity
that a process of communication requires [9], [41].
Furthermore, MRT posits that the level of appropriate
functionality, which an ICT inherits, influences the
effectiveness of the usage. The richer a medium for
communication, the more effective it is [42].
The examination of our semi-virtual DT approach
in regard to Media Theories shall give a ground for
discussion on the fit of our chosen technology and,
therefore, create an understanding which
functionalities of our chosen ICT a digital
whiteboard were used during application [1], [3].
Furthermore, past research shows that multiculturalism
in virtual teams has distinct negative effects on the
process, and moreover affects the level of creativity
[3]. In contrast, other studies show consistent levels of
creativity in virtual, multicultural teamwork
irrespective to the choice of ICT [1]. Nonetheless, an
advanced examination for specific ICT that supports
the usage in particular creative settings are missing [1].
3. Propositions
The presented theoretical discussion shows the
relevance and necessity of a deeper examination of
semi-virtual teamwork in general, and on creative
teamwork (DT) in particular.
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We aim at examining whether semi-virtually
performed DT is as successful as analogue performed
DT. Successfulness in this context relates to the level
of SMM, which shall indicate whether team members
evaluate their team performance positively in respect to
the applied knowledge structure. In this paper, we test
whether the usage of a given virtual tool a digital
whiteboard with specific functionalities works as
appropriate alternative compared to collaboration on an
analogue whiteboard with multiple functionalities,
which foster creativity in a DT workshop. Our major
research questions (RQ) are:
(1) How is the level of SMM in a DT workshop
impacted when teamwork is performed in a
semi-virtual setting?
(2) Is a digital whiteboard an appropriate tool to
support semi-virtual DT workshops?
(3) Which functionalities of a digital whiteboard
are needed to appropriately support the
development of SMM in a semi-virtual DT
Workshop?
To answer the above-mentioned research questions
one and two, we evaluate the influences of the level of
shared understanding, satisfaction, and perceived
effectiveness based on the psychological construct of
SMM, specifically the knowledge structure “team task,
team goal and performance requirements” in a semi-
virtual DT setting compared to an analogue DT setting.
We propose that a semi-virtually performed DT
workshop with the support of a digital whiteboard…
1. …leads to a low shared understanding of teams
compared to an analogue setting.
2. …leads to a low level of satisfaction for team
members in comparison to an analogue setting.
3. …is perceived with low effectiveness
compared to an analogue setting.
These propositions are based on findings
concerning MNT, which argues that the usage of ICT
hinders certain cognitive processes and, therefore, is
not as effective as an analogue collaboration [40].
Since SMM are an indicator for shared cognitive
representations to perform team interaction, we
propose that the level of shared understanding,
satisfaction, and perceived effectiveness is low in
comparison to an analogue performance [7], [44]. The
term “low” indicates a rating of less than neutral in a 5-
point Likert-scale.
Complementary, to draw further conclusions for
our research question two and give answer to three, we
evaluate whether the usage of a digital whiteboard with
its diverse functionalities supports a semi-virtual DT
workshop appropriately. This is reached via an
additional survey for the experimental group on the
preferred use of functionalities within the given tool.
Additionally, this will be related to the above presented
Media Theories to draw further conclusions.
Fig. 1 Evaluation Design
4. Design
For the purpose of the experiment, we developed
one DT workshop concept that follows the
requirements of defining a phase sequence and
methods from different disciplines and were, hence,
applied for the experimental- and control group. Each
workshop was stretched over three days and included
the phases understand, observe, point of view, ideate,
prototype, and test. In-between the predefined
timeslots for performing the phases there was time left
for potential iteration of the team process. For each
phase at least two methods were used to shape the
process. The following methods were used in the
specific phases:
Understand: The teams were asked to brainstorm
and use the method Define your Audience, a visual
method that asks the team members to identify all
stakeholders that are relevant for the design challenge
[15]. Additionally, the needs of the stakeholders are
outlined.
Observe: The method Interview for Empathy
was conducted in order to build up empathy with
stakeholders while asking specifically designed
questions [45]. Based on the findings from the
interviews, a Journey Map for a sample of
stakeholders was created by the team members to
generate insights [16].
Point of View: In this phase a bundle of Persona
were developed, which are fictional characters based
on the insights from observation [17]. Afterwards, the
method Create Insight Statementwas used for each
Persona, which in turn leads to the adjustment of the
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initial design challenge from a user-centered
perspective [46].
Ideate: For the ideation phaseBrainstormingwas
used to generate ideas. Based on this, the method Gut
Check was applied to arrange and expand idea
bundles [47].
Prototype: The team members were free to choose
from either material prototypes, roleplay, storyboard or
IT prototypes such as mock-ups.
Test: The developed prototypes were tested in a
World Café, where stakeholders and experts were able
to give feedback on the solution. Afterwards, the
prototypes were improved by the team members based
on the feedback from others.
The DT workshop took place in a dedicated DT lab,
which is flooded with natural light, where all furniture
and equipment is moveable, and colorful consumables
are provided.
The semi-virtual setting refers to the realization of
specific phases in a location-independent manner. The
phases “Understand and “Ideate were executed
location-independent with all team members of one
team. This procedure is supported by Baskerville and
Nandhakumar (2007) who argue that communication
and collaboration are attached to team members and
not to places [1], [48]. The instructions of how to use
particular methods were given in advance in a face-to-
face setting before team members spread out. All team
members used a given digital whiteboard and were free
to use additional ICT for communication, such as
skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime or iMessage. The
decision which ICT to use, was left to each team since
it opens the opportunity that teams apply their existing
ICT and do not need to get used to two new
applications. This procedure is supported by past
research, which argues that participants shall feel
comfortable with technology usage in order to support
interaction [3].
4.1 A Digital Whiteboard for Semi-Virtual DT
For the purpose of performing a semi-virtual DT
workshop an appropriate software needs to be applied.
In a common analogue DT setting, whiteboards are the
preferred medium for collaboration. Whiteboards allow
for a collaborative visualization of content to
collectively create insights [49]. Furthermore, the
opportunity for changing and erasing visual content
supports the building of common visual
representations, which fosters the level of SMM [39],
[50]. We, therefore, apply a digital whiteboard for the
objective of performing a semi-virtual DT workshop.
There are several digital whiteboards available. We
chose to use “Mural.co” [51]. Mural.co is a web-based
software that allows for real-time collaboration,
communication, and visualization with multiple users.
Mural.co has an intuitive usability and integrates
various functionalities that an analogue whiteboard
offers as well. Collaborative visualization in this
software includes the functionalities of using post- it
notes, forms-, shapes-, connections-, text-, and photo
insertion as well as using predefined templates such as
a Business Model Canvas. Communication is
additionally supported with a real-time chat.
Furthermore, Mural.co offers the functionality for
collaborative voting on content and tracking of single
activities in a protocol to allow for traceability of
single actions [51].
The combination of functionalities as well as an
easy subscription process, convinced us to use
Mural.co as support for the semi-virtual DT workshop.
4.2 Participants and Procedures
Our experiment involved overall 59 students from
diverse undergraduate programs such as Economics,
Management, Industrial Engineering, Computer
Science, Social Sciences, Intelligent Mobile Systems,
Electrical & Computer Engineering, Politics &
History, Physics, Biochemistry & Cell Biology, and
Medicinal Chemistry & Chemical Biology. The age of
the participants ranged from 19 to 22 years and the
group consisted of 36 male and 23 female participants.
The participants were born in 27 different countries
throughout the world. The experiment was executed
within an extracurricular professionalization offer but
the participation in the experiment was mandatory. The
experiment lasted 6 days three days for the control
group (CG) and three days for the experimental group
(EG). The allocation to either the CG or the EG was
coordinated via an official and automated
extracurricular activity registration tool with no
possibility for manipulating the groups. The group
sizes varied due to automated registration and
institutional conditions, which led to a group size of
NCG=24 for the control group (analogue workshop) and
NEG=35 for the experimental group (semi-virtual
workshop). The distribution of the participants resulted
in six teams for either CG or EG. The team size varied
between four to six team members each.
Prior to the beginning of the experiment, all
participants took part in a one-day session on the
introduction to DT, where the theory and ideas of DT
were explained and a one-hour design challenge was
performed. Furthermore, the teams prepared their own
design challenges as the starting point for the three-day
workshops, which were accompanied by dedicated DT
coaches.
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4.3 Measures
In order to test our propositions, we conducted a
survey based on previously defined concepts [8], [10],
[52]. After each DT workshop the participants of the
EG and CG filled out the digital form individually and
were invited to rate their perception on the dependent
measures shared understanding, satisfaction, and
perceived effectiveness on a 5-point Likert-scale. We
defined the measures in the following way:
The measure “shared understanding of team task,
goals” is based on findings from Johnson et al. (2007)
and Santos et al. (2015) and is sampled as a plausible
construct for the measurement of team-related
acquaintance [8], [10]. This measure includes 15 items
on shared understanding of team task and goal related
perception, communication, and team climate.
The measure “satisfaction” contains six items based
on findings from Dennis et al. (1996) and Santos et al.
(2015) [10], [52]. This measure evaluates the
individual level of every participant’s perception
according to satisfaction with the performance of a
semi-virtual DT approach.
The measure “perceived effectiveness” includes
three items based on findings from Dennis et al. (1996)
[52]. These items evaluate the perceived effectiveness
concerning the focus on problem-solving, input of
individual skills, and task structuring.
The survey contains 24 questions. All items used in
the measures are weighted equally and included in the
statistical calculations. We calculated the internal
consistency with Cronbach’s Alpha (α) for each
measure, to validate that all items measure the same
concept (Table 1) [53], [54]. Due to the use of Likert-
scales, we measured Mann-Whitney U (U) tests to
validate whether there is a significant difference in the
results of the EG and the CG. Based on this, we
computed the Spearman correlation for every measure.
Furthermore, we asked the participants of the EG
which functionalities they used while using the digital
whiteboard. Multiple answers were possible in a
selection of the following functionalities: post-it notes,
text insertion, photo insertion, voting system,
predefined templates, chat function, shapes and
connections, and icons. Furthermore, the participants
had the choice of typing in feedback what they liked
and what they disliked about using Mural.co [51].
4.4 Results
Based on the answers from the survey, we
calculated α, which validates that all items measure the
same concept. Table 1 shows the results of the survey
in comparison of the CG and EG, inclusive standard
deviations (SD), and α.
Tab. 1. Descriptive data
Measure
MeanCG
MeanEG
SDCG
SDEG
α
Shared
understanding
4.583
4.337
.617
.680
.923
Satisfaction
4.542
4.400
.629
.658
.848
Perceived
effectiveness
4.417
4.280
.735
.719
.564
The results show that the EG evaluated the team
interaction concerning shared understanding,
satisfaction, and perceived effectiveness slightly lower
in comparison to the CG. The results show an
insignificant difference of both groups.
Because of the existence of non-normal distributed
data and the usage of Likert-scales within the survey,
we additionally calculated U (Table 2). Due to the
comparably small number of participants in the
experiment and the insignificant results, we
additionally computed effect size with Cohen’s d (d).
Tab. 2. Mann-Whitney U tests
U
d
Z
p
Shared
275.5
0.379
2.491
.025
328.5
0.219
1.428
.153
Perceived
350.5
0.188
1.095
.273
The results of the U tests validate that there is no
significant difference between the EG and the CG. To
further draw conclusions on the insignificant results,
we computed a Spearman correlation (ρ) (Table 3).
Tab. 3. Spearman Correlation
Measure
ρ
p
Shared understanding and
satisfaction
0.773
7.561e-13
Shared understanding and
perceived effectiveness
0.747
1.038e-11
Perceived effectiveness and
satisfaction
0.691
1.434e-09
The Spearman correlation coefficient ρ measures
the monotonic relationship of two variables and the
results show that the correlation of the measures
perceived effectiveness and satisfaction represent a
moderate uphill positive relationship =.691). The
correlation of the measure satisfaction and shared
understanding (ρ=.773) as well as shared
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understanding and perceived effectiveness (ρ=.747)
represent a strong uphill positive linear relationship.
Additionally, we asked the participants of the EG
questions on the usage of Mural.co. Every participant
strongly agreed that Mural.co is an appropriate
whiteboard for location-independent teamwork.
Fig. 2 Use of single functionalities
Concerning the use of specific functionalities when
using Mural.co, the participants of the EG stated that
the chat, post-it notes, text insertion, and shapes and
connections were frequently used (Figure 2). In
contrast, the functionalities of inserting icons, using the
voting system, predefined templates, and photo
insertion were less frequently or rarely used.
5. Discussion
Our research aims at developing a semi-virtual DT
approach that supports companies in facilitating semi-
virtual teamwork regarding creative innovation
projects. In our experiment, we tested a semi-virtual
DT approach in comparison to an analogue one. For
the evaluation of our research, we introduced SMM as
a measurable construct to make a statement on shared
understanding, satisfaction, and perceived
effectiveness. Additionally, we asked the participants
of the EG to state, which functionalities of the digital
whiteboard were used most frequently in order to
answer which functionalities of the tool support semi-
virtual DT. Furthermore, we introduced three existing
Media Theories MRT, MNT, and MST to be able
to evaluate the fit and functionality of the digital
whiteboard that was used during the experiment.
Based on the theoretical basis at the beginning of
our paper, we discuss the results of the survey in regard
to our propositions.
In proposition 1, we predicted that a semi-virtual
DT workshop leads to a low shared understanding of
teams in contrast to an analogue setting. We can
outline that this proposition 1 is false, since the results
show an insignificant difference and the level of shared
understanding is minimally lower in the EG than in the
CG. The results evoke that the level of shared
understanding in the semi-virtual DT setting was
comparably high, which indicates a positive, successful
collaboration. The results of the experiment are
opposing with findings from van Knippenberg and
Schippers (2007) who state that virtual collaboration
for a short-time frame might negatively contribute to
the teams creative performance [30]. Our experiment
structure and setting of a time-restricted semi-virtual
DT workshop that is based on creative interaction
shows a high level of shared understanding. The results
are, therefore, in line with Mathieu et al. (2008) who
state that virtual collaboration can positively contribute
to creative teamwork [29].
In line with proposition 1, we argued in proposition
2 that a low level of satisfaction can be found in semi-
virtual DT workshops in comparison to an analogue
one. The results disprove our proposition 2, since the
rated level of satisfaction is high. This is also contrary
in regard to findings from Martins and Shalley (2011)
who state that multiculturalism affects the process of
virtual collaboration negatively [3]. Our experiment
included collaboration of people from 27 countries
who rated a high level of satisfaction concerning their
teamwork. The participants of the EG rated their
perceived satisfaction 1.5% less in comparison with the
CG, which indicates that neither the multicultural team
constellations nor the semi-virtual collaboration
negatively impacted the DT workshops.
In proposition 3, we predicted that a semi-virtual
DT workshop is perceived with low effectiveness
compared to an analogue setting. Again, the
proposition 3 is disproved by the results of the
experiment. The level of perceived effectiveness of the
experiment’s participants is high in the CG as well as
in the EG. The results of the experiment are in line
with the assumptions of Gilson et al. (2015) who
propose that negative effects due to virtual
collaboration are less dominant in teams that represent
younger generations [1]. According to the participants
ages ranging from 19 to 22 years, a negative effect
regarding a perceived level of effectiveness can be
explained due to the generation’s familiarity with ICT.
The reflection on our propositions in comparison
with the results from the experiment, show that a semi-
virtually performed DT workshop does not have
negative effects on the shared understanding,
satisfaction, and perceived effectiveness of the
participants. The survey shows that all items of the
SMM knowledge structure “team task, goal and
performance requirements” reached a high level, which
is an indicator for successful collaboration. This
finding is supported by Bittner and Leimeister (2014)
who state that for SMM, especially in a diverse team
constellation, a high level of shared understanding is an
essential indicator for success [38]. Accordingly, our
Page 723
research question “How is the level of SMM in a DT
workshop impacted when teamwork is performed in a
semi-virtual setting?can be answered with a positive
résumé.
Concerning our research question whether a digital
whiteboard is an appropriate support for semi-virtual
DT workshops, we can argue that our chosen digital
whiteboard Mural.co creates an overall satisfactory
support. This is in line with the questioning of the
experiment’s participants of the EG. The results also
coincide with findings from Ju et al. (2006) who state
that flexibility of collaborative visualization, which a
whiteboard offers, supports the building of SMM [50].
Furthermore, all EG teams came to a satisfying
output at the end of the semi-virtual DT workshop,
which indicates that the usage of Mural.co supported
the process towards a satisfactory output. This is in line
with findings from Gilson et al (2015) who summarize
that a constant level of creative and multicultural
collaboration can be achieved regardless the choice of
ICT [1].
Our survey of the EG, moreover, delivered
information on the functionalities a digital whiteboard
needs to inherit in order to support the development of
SMM in a semi-virtual DT workshop. The results show
that post-it notes, text insertion, and shapes and
connections were the most preferred functions used in
virtual team collaboration. Additionally, the chat
function of Mural.co was rated most common.
Although, the participants were free to use any
additional audio-visual application in regard to
personal claims, most participants used the integrated
chat function of our suggested digital whiteboard. As
stated earlier, findings from literature indicate that if
participants use well-known ICT, a level of
comfortableness positively influences team interaction
[3]. The results of the experiment indicate that
comfortableness towards ICT usage might also be
achieved via integrated functionalities of one
application such as a usually commonly-known chat
function.
Other functionalities provided by Mural.co such as
a voting system, photo insertion, predefined templates,
and icons were in comparison less frequently used. We
propose that these less used functionalities might
become more important, when different tasks during
virtual collaboration are performed. Photo insertion,
for example, might play a more important role, when
other methods such as the creation of storyboards are
applied.
Eventually, the rating of the participants on the
usage of specific functionalities reveal a response to
our research question “Which functionalities of a
digital whiteboard are needed to appropriately support
the development of SMM in a semi-virtual DT
Workshop?”.
In conclusion, we can reveal that our propositions,
which are based on the MNT, cannot be supported. The
results of the experiment show positive levels of SMM,
which indicate that cognitive processes were not
hindered during semi-virtual collaboration.
Accordingly, we disprove the relation of MNT in the
context of our experiment.
Furthermore, we cannot verify a connection to
MST since the evaluation did not measure the speed of
synchronicity of virtual communication.
Based on the discussion, we rather propose that the
success of the semi-virtual DT workshops is in line
with MRT, as the evaluation of the applied digital
whiteboard revealed a rich usage of functionalities that
are provided by the software and used by the
experiment’s participants.
6. Conclusion
This paper examined whether the innovation
approach DT, which is usually performed in an
analogue setting, can also be performed in a semi-
virtual setting.
We, therefore, conducted an experiment that
followed the requirements of a DT approach. On the
basis of the psychological construct of SMM, we
evaluated our semi-virtual DT approach in comparison
to an analogue DT workshop. The discussion on
existing Media Theories served as an underlying
foundation for the evaluation of our applied software, a
digital whiteboard.
In summary, we can outline that our propositions
have been proven wrong. The results show that there
are no negative effects of the level of SMM when
performing DT semi-virtually. This, consequently,
disproves our assumption that an ICT-supported
collaboration hinders cognitive processes, as predicted
according to MNT.
This research rather reveals that a semi-virtual DT
workshop can lead to high levels of shared
understanding, satisfaction and perceived
effectiveness. We argue that the applied digital
whiteboard supports a creative semi-virtual
collaboration due to the advanced functionalities.
Based on this finding, we draw a connection to MRT.
Furthermore, we admit that our research has
limitations concerning the number participants.
Additionally, as we aim at developing a semi-virtual
DT approach for the benefit of companies to improve
innovation development, an experiment with
employees would be of advantage. Even though, there
is a need for further research to prove different
Page 724
conditions of semi-virtual DT, this research shows that
a strictly designed semi-virtual DT workshop with the
support of appropriate ICT leads to a successful
collaboration, which is a first step for improving
business challenges in this context.
7. Acknowledgements
This study is part of the project “DETHIS Design
Thinking for Industrial Services“, funded by the
Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
of Germany, Grant 02K14A140.
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