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Teaching Students in the Technical and Professional Communication Classroom Practices for Innovation Rhetoric


Abstract and Figures

Initiating and continuing rhetorical invention is an important practice for teams seeking to innovate. Workplace professionals demonstrate one potential model of rhetorical innovation by instantiating four rhetorical moves that make up a broader practice of difference-driven inquiry (DDI). But it remains unknown how DDI, as a model of innovative rhetoric, can be taught in the technical and professional communication classroom. Over the course of two studies, the author investigated a pedagogy attempting to teach practices for innovation rhetoric. The results show that the pedagogy can be effective but that more scaffolding is needed.
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Teaching Students in
the Technical and
Classroom Practices
for Innovation
Craig Moreau
Initiating and continuing rhetorical invention is an important practice for
teams seeking to innovate. Workplace professionals demonstrate one
potential model of rhetorical innovation by instantiating four rhetorical
moves that make up a broader practice of difference-driven inquiry
(DDI). But it remains unknown how DDI, as a model of innovative rhe-
toric, can be taught in the technical and professional communication class-
room. Over the course of two studies, the author investigated a pedagogy
attempting to teach practices for innovation rhetoric. The results show
that the pedagogy can be effective but that more scaffolding is needed.
invention, innovation, pedagogy, teamwork, workplace, difference driven
Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
Corresponding Author:
Craig Moreau, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA.
Journal of Business and Technical
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10506519221105495
In an increasingly interdependent and global community, students
need to learn how to work effectively in teams. Future employers
expect students to possess sophisticated teamwork skills upon gradu-
ation, and an increasing amount of scholarship is dedicated to naming
what teamwork skills are most important pedagogically (Jackson
et al., 2014; Riebe et al., 2016; Wolfe & Powell, 2009) and specic
ways to incorporate effective team instruction in the technical and
professional communication (TPC) classroom (Cockburn-Wootten
et al., 2008; Cyphert et al., 2019; Lam, 2018; Lauren & Schreiber,
One nebulous teamwork skill sought after in industry and TPC class-
rooms alike concerns a teams ability to innovate. Innovation is often
attributed to highly creative and capable organizations. For example,
former Google executives Schmidt and Rosenberg (2014) noted that
in their ideal teams, consensus is not about getting everyone to
agree. Instead, it is about coming to the best idea for the company and
rallying around it. Reaching this best idearequires conict(p. 154).
So at least for Google, what is privileged is not a teams ability to nd
agreement but a teams ability to use conict for innovative means.
Likewise, recent TCP scholarship has looked at how innovation can
be pursued methodologically, especially via approaches like design
thinking (Greenwood et al., 2019; Lee, 2018; Linton & Klinton, 2019;
Marber & Araya, 2017; Pope-Ruark et al., 2019) or in contexts like
entrepreneurship (Fraiberg, 2021; Pellegrini & Johnson-Sheehan,
2021). Whether innovation is implicitly stated as an ideal, as in the
case of Googlesbest idea,a byproduct of a method used to
engage divergent thinking(Greenwood et al., 2019, p. 400), or the
communicative function in an entrepreneurial ecosystem(Fraiberg,
2021, p. 178), it is widely sought in professional, scholarly, and peda-
gogical circles.
Figuring out how to get to that best idea has long been a cornerstone
for rhetoric. Specically, the notions of innovation and ideation align to
one of the elds historic canons: inventio
,or invention (Flower &
Ackerman, 1994; Lauer, 2004; LeFevre, 1986; Muckelbauer, 2009;
Simons, 1990; Young & Liu, 1994). Rhetorical invention comprises
the strategic actions people take to discover ideas and arguments for
their rhetorical situation (Lauer, 2004, p. 24). The ability to initiate
and maintain rhetorical invention when working within a team is an
important skill for students in the TPC classroom to learn as they aim
to join teams in the workplace.
2Journal of Business and Technical Communication 0(0)
But while rhetorical invention may occur with relatively less friction
during the opening brainstorming sessions in a team, maintaining a
teams generative capability as the collaborative process moves along
becomes more difcult as members take positions on debates and align
themselves to the success of one idea over another. When individuals iden-
tify with an idea and link success to the teams commitment to that idea, the
effect can sometimes result in what is known as entrenchment (De Vreede &
de Vreede, 2017; Myers & Lamm, 1976). This entrenchment increases (and
invention decreases) as time passes and commitments are made.
Yet innovation largely depends on a teams ability to continue the develop-
ment of arguments despite the passage of time and team memberscommit-
ment to one outcome over another. In fact, Hülsheger et al. (2009) made an
important distinction between innovation and creativity. Creativity is a rst
stage subprocess of ideation and is distinct from innovation, which covers
both ideation and implementation. The distinction between creativity and inno-
vation, then, is twofold: First, both creativity and innovation involve ideation.
In other words, ideation occurs alongside the passage of time in a team project
and should not be limited to the opening phase. Second, innovation also
requires developing implementation solutions. Implementation involves addi-
tional inquiry into the ideas already on the table. If a team member is commit-
ted to an idea in its primordial rst stage and is unwilling to seek out new
dimensions to that idea, entrenchment may be more likely and innovation
less likely to occur (Dane, 2010; Sanger & Singh, 2012).
Entrenchment is just one theoretical explanation for the difculties
involved in the practice of team innovation. Other theories, such as social
cohesion, groupthink, social loang, satiscing, transfer, fatigue, and task
representation, offer a variety of alternative explanations for why people
on teams might choose not to pursue rhetorical invention. Yet few of
these theories offer effective strategies for how people might attempt to
overcome these constraints when innovation is a team priority. Some strat-
egies currently offered to help people mitigate problems in teaming include
tools such as mental maps (Stout et al., 1999), team charters (Wolfe, 2017),
and various elements drawn from design thinking (Chin et al., 2019;
Greenwood et al., 2019; Lane, 2018; Lee, 2018; Pope-Ruark et al., 2019;
Weedon & Fountain, 2019). There is room to build on these named strate-
gies in order to incorporate the grounded experiences of professionals who
innovate in their teams.
In a previous study (Moreau, 2020) I observed how teams at oneFortune 100
biotech company continue innovation by practicing a larger rhetorical frame-
work known as difference-driven inquiry (DDI; Flower, 2016). This study
Moreau 3
revealed a professionally grounded DDI framework composed of four rhetorical
moves. In the rst rhetorical move, seek out new discourse, teams would gather
previously unheard perspectives and interpretations. Professionals practiced
seeking out new discourse through calling out their colleaguesexpertise by
asking them questions such as, Are you ok with this decision? If not, why?
and You know a lot about this, would you mind sharing your perspective
with the team? In the second rhetorical move, focus on discourses of difference,
professionals would both escalate observed differences between team members
and create new differences by encouraging hypothesis with prompts such as,
Lets highlight that you and I cant agree. What is swaying you, why do you
feel that way?and I want to hear your way. What is your hypothesis for
what would work here? Lets discuss it.
In the third rhetorical move, return to previous discourse, teams would
take breaks and recircle the wagons.For example, a professional who
calls for taking a break might say, Okay, you know what, were not
going to come to a resolution here. Lets go away, lets all think about it,
lets get this piece of information and reconvene.The recircle the
wagonsmetaphor came from one of the participants I observed who
described an activity in which the team returns to an earlier decision to redis-
cuss it as a group (Moreau, 2020). Recircling the wagons is exemplied in
comments such as, Yes, we made a decision, but lets recircle that decision
and see how it changes given some new information.And in the fourth rhe-
torical move, build trust, teams would use rhetoric to create an open atmo-
sphere and a shared experience. Discourse to create an open atmosphere
included, We need to think outside the box here, lets toss some ideas
about and be creative.Discourse to create shared experience occurred
during informal team meetings for celebrations, coffee chats, and happy
hours. Thus, these four rhetorical moves fostered innovation by seeking
out new discourse, focusing on discourses of difference, returning to previ-
ous discourse, and building trust through discourse (p. 393). The four rhe-
torical moves are summarized in Table 1.
But an important question remains: Can DDI, as a four-move rhetorical
model for pursuing innovation, be retooled and repackaged for students in
TPC classrooms? As Brent (2011) mentioned in his study on transfer,
teachers should do what we can to import elements of workplace prac-
tice into the activities we design for our students(p. 414). Still, as
instructors, we must ask ourselves continuously: How can we do what
Brent and others suggest we should do? In this article, I trace issues of
invention, teamwork, pedagogy, and transfer by investigating how the
elements of DDI, as one example of a workplace practice, can be
4Journal of Business and Technical Communication 0(0)
effectively taught to students in the TPC classroom and, of growing
importance, in pandemic and postpandemic virtual contexts (Cleary
et al., 2018; Johnson-Eilola & Selber, 2021).
In this study, I apply the rhetorical practices that professionals use in the
TPC classroom in a quasi-experimental approach centered around these two
research questions:
1. Can a tutorial and written reectionbased pedagogy of innova-
tion rhetoric help students practice innovation in their team
2. How do students interpret and instantiate a pedagogy of innova-
tion rhetoric during team meetings and in postmeeting
Developing the Pedagogy: Translating DDI for
Student Use
The pedagogy of innovation rhetoric originates with the model of DDI that I
developed from my previous study (Moreau, 2020). To adapt the model for
classroom use, I performed several iterations of the teaching model. I
derived these iterations from feedback from students in classrooms, students
in a focus group, peer instructors in a university writing center, and scholars
who were judges at a 3-minute thesis competition. In terms of structure, the
nal product (as much as any pedagogy can be considered nal) for this
study evolved to a 13-minute tutorial made of ve slides. In terms of
content, the nal pedagogy translated the practices of DDI for the classroom
Table 1. Four Rhetorical Innovation Moves and the Discourse to Facilitate Each.
Rhetorical Move Discourse to Facilitate Move
Seek out new discourse Ask a question
Call out expertise
Focus on discourse of
Escalate differences
Create new differences (hypothesis-driven
Return to previous
Take breaks
•“Recircle the wagons
Build trust through
Create an open ideational atmosphere
Create a shared experience and language
Moreau 5
as four ways to foster team innovation (see Figure 1), referred to in this study
as innovation rhetoric.
The 13-minute virtual tutorial was given to students via a shareable link to the tuto-
rial, which uses the online software program Loom. I selected Loom because it
features video of the presenter along with the presenters screen and because it
would allow me to display the PowerPoint as well as offer a sense of physical pres-
encean important characteristic for maintaining some of the benets of
in-person teaching denied by the pivot to virtual instruction during the
COVID-19 pandemic. The tutorial has the following learning objectives:
Students will be able to recognize innovation rhetoric as a practice
they can use in their team projects.
Students will be able to identify the four moves that make up inno-
vation rhetoric (see Table 1).
Students will be able to apply each of the four moves in their team
Students will be able to classify difference as an ideational resource.
In the tutorial instructions, I narrated a ve-slide PowerPoint presentation.
The main slide showed the model of innovation rhetoric, with each of the
four moves having a dedicated slide (see Figure 1): (1) seek out new dis-
course, (2) focus on discourses of difference, (3) return to discourse, and
(4) build trust through discourse.
Figure 1. Main slide of a tutorial adapting DDI for a student-focused pedagogy.
6Journal of Business and Technical Communication 0(0)
After recording the tutorial, I made minor edits to adjust for technical errors
(ambient noise, distractions, etc.) and then published it online for student viewing.
Background and Methods for the Two Studies
I conducted two separate studies to answer my research questions. Broadly,
my goal for the rst study was to create and test the efcacy of innovation
rhetorical pedagogy, and my goal for the second study was to understand
how students interpret and practice such a pedagogy. By conducting two
studies, I could focus on each goal separately and reduce complicating
factors in the data. Both studies were approved by the institutional review
board of Carnegie Mellon University (Approval No.164 [2019]).
Study 1
To help answer my rst research question (Can a tutorial and written reection
based pedagogy of innovation rhetoric help students practice innovation in their
team projects?), I compared student survey responses from control and experi-
mental classrooms using a quasi-experimental approach. Experimental
approaches have been found useful for answering questions related to the
effects of instruction and other factors on teamwork (Abbott et al., 2006). A
common model of experimental design uses 2 ×2 factor analysis to examine
the effects of an instructional treatment using controlled and experimental vari-
ables (Beach, 1992, p. 227). Quasi-experimental studies are particularly useful
for our research questions because they employ intact groups (those found in a
classroom) for the sample size.
To determine the efcacy of the tutorial and the medium, I split six class-
rooms with the same curricular objectives into control and experimental
groups. The experimental groups received instruction on innovation rhetoric
via the 13-minute tutorial. They were also given my workplace research
article to skim and review (Moreau, 2020) and a one-page handout. The
control groups, however, did not receive instruction via the tutorial, the research
article, or the one-page handout. Students in both groups were then surveyed for
their use of innovation rhetoric. To supplement the survey data, I assigned a
qualitative reection to one of the experimental groups.
The Course. The sample for this study comprised self-selected students
enrolled in six sections of the same course taught at an R1 technical college
in the eastern United States. This 200-level course, Writing in the
Professions, draws majors from colleges and departments throughout the uni-
versity. The courses curricular objectives involve equipping students with
Moreau 7
rhetorical practices (e.g., performing audience analysis, adapting via accom-
modation strategies, identifying rhetorical appeals) for use in their professional
lives. The course features four projects: a job application package, a written
proposal, an oral proposal, and a set of instructions accompanied with a user-
testing report. The nal project, the instruction set and user test, is a team
project. Instructors taught the course traditionally (in person and synchronous)
for the rst half of the course and adjusted to online synchronous teaching after
spring break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students. I initiated recruitment by emailing professors teaching Writing in the
Professions to ask for their participation in the study. I also asked them if they
would prefer to be in the control or the experimental group. Once six professors
stated their interest, I split the courses into control groups and experimental
groups. Via email, I sent the control groups the survey only and the experimental
groups the tutorial link rst and then the survey. To distinguish participants in the
control groups from those in the experimental groups I used two different survey
URLs. Participation was not required, and from the 106 potential students, 59
respondeda response rate of approximately 55%. Of the 59, 30 responses
came from control groups and 29 responses came from the experimental groups.
Data Collection. I distributed a survey tool using the online software
Qualtrics. Students ranked their answers to 20 questions using a ve-point
Likert-style, grouped into four sections. In addition, for one of the experi-
mental courses, I sent a short-answer questionnaire to solicit studentsreec-
tions regarding their experience using Loom as a mode of pedagogical
delivery and the content taught within that medium.
The rst section of the survey (questions 14) asked students to report their
teams levels of productive conict. The second section (questions 59) mea-
sured student access and use of innovative resources. The third section (ques-
tions 1013) looked again at productive conict but only this time on the
level of the individual team member. The fourth section (questions 1420)
asked questions about studentsperceptions of psychological safety on their
teams, drawing from similar surveys used by teams at Google (Google, n.d.).
Table 2 lists questions and the justications for asking these questions.
Study 2
To build upon and validate the ndings from Study 1, which collected data as
self-reported survey responses, and help answer my second research question
(How do students interpret and instantiate a pedagogy of innovation rhetoric
during team meetings and in postmeeting reections?), Study 2 focuses on col-
lecting qualitative observations of studentsexperiences as they use innovation
8Journal of Business and Technical Communication 0(0)
rhetoric in the moment. For this reason, I used only an experimental group to
document how students used, or did not use, innovation rhetoric. To document
student use of innovation rhetoric, I allocated my time as a researcher to tran-
scribe and analyze student-meeting transcripts and studentswritten reections.
The Course. The course for the second study, Writing in the Professions,
was held in the summer and, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, was
offered virtually over Zoom. The class fullls a writing and communication
requirement for students in the disciplines and is capped at 19 students. One
difference between the summer course and the spring course is that the
summer course was taught under a condensed timeline. Typically, the
course is taught twice a week over a 4-month semester, as was done in
Study 1. The summer course, however, was taught Monday through
Friday over six consecutive weeks.
Students. The virtual nature of the course allowed for students to enroll
from various locations across the globe. Of those 16 students, six different
time zones were represented, ranging from Asia Pacic, the Middle East,
and various zones in the United States. All but two of the students were
able to attend the course synchronously. For the two students who could
not attend synchronously, course recordings were available online, and
the instructor communicated frequently with those students over email.
Class standing was diverse within the class, which had sophomores (n=
2), juniors (n=10), and seniors (n=4). Majors included those from the col-
leges of ne arts (n=2), engineering (n=3), information science (n=2),
business (n=2), social science (n=1), and computer science (n=6).
Pedagogy. The course pedagogy was similar to the pedagogy described
in Study 1 but with two major differences: (a) The summer course was
taught entirely online whereas the spring courses were taught only partially
online due to the timing of the COVID-19 pandemic after spring break, and
(b) to build on what I learned from Study 1, I had all the students complete a
short-answer reection called innovation debriefs. The innovation debriefs
asked students to reect four times throughout their team sessions on
instances of innovation by responding to short-answer and survey questions.
These debriefs not only provided a source of data for my analysis; they
increased studentsawareness of the intervention by building on the previ-
ously described elements of Study 1, including an online tutorial, a research
article reading, and a one-page handout.
To increase the validity of studentsanswers, the debriefs were graded as
creditno credit for submission and were not read or evaluated while the
course was taking place. That is, students were given credit for submitting
the assignment, but what they wrote was not calculated into their nal
Moreau 9
Table 2. Twenty Likert-Style Survey Questions Arranged Into Four Groups.
Likert-Style Question
Answered on a 15 Scale Justication/Reasoning for Question
1 My team has productive conicts. Measure level of conict aversion
2 My team avoids conicts over ideas. Measure preference for social
3 My team tends to think similarly. Measure tendency for groupthink
4 My team tends to think differently. Measure level of cognitive diversity
5 My team uses strategies to solicit
input from everyone on team.
Measure ideational toolkit for getting
6 My team uses strategies to pursue
new ideas.
Measure ideational toolkit for
7 My team uses strategies to revisit old
Measure ideational toolkit for
8 My team uses strategies to get more
Measure strategic toolkit for avoiding
9 My team uses strategies to
investigate problems associated
with our ideas.
Measure structural toolkit for
problem solving
10 Do you ever nd yourself keeping a
new idea to yourself if the team is
already working hard on a
different idea?
Measure an individuals preference for
social cohesion
11 Do you challenge the ideas posed by
your teammates early on in
Measure an individuals frequency of
challenging a teams ideas early on
12 Do you challenge ideas posed by
your teammates in middle-to-late
stages of your projects?
Measure an individuals frequency of
challenging a teams ideas in the
middle-to-late stages of a project
13 Do you refrain from challenging
other peoples ideas?
Measure an individuals preference to
be socially cohesive
14 If you make a mistake on this team, it
is often held against you.
Measure an individuals sense of
psychological safety on the team
15 Members of this team are able to
bring up problems and tough
Measure an individuals sense of
psychological safety on the team
16 People on this team sometimes
reject others for being different.
Measure an individuals sense of
psychological safety on the team
17 It is safe to take a risk on this team. Measure an individuals sense of
psychological safety on the team
10 Journal of Business and Technical Communication 0(0)
grades, and the content of their reections was not examined until after the
semester had passed. Students were told of these conditions in their instruc-
tions for the assignment.
To teach teamwork skills, the nal project of the course put students into
teams in order to create a set of instructions for a particular audience.
Student teams identied a need for the instruction, performed user testing
on instruction drafts, and selected an appropriate medium in which to
publish their instructions. Additional tasks to supplement the teamwork
project included creating a team charter and lling out four innovation
debriefs. Students created products such as a guide for freshmen on
campus culture and instructions on how to use a satellite campuss library
and printing services, nd off-campus housing, and create a virtual
private network (VPN) from scratch.
Teams were arranged according to time zone in order to help students
coordinate meeting times. But not all teams had students in the same time
zone; for example, students on Pacic Standard Time worked with students
in Mountain Time, and students in Singapore were paired with students in
Hong Kong. Each team comprised four students. The teamwork project con-
stituted the nal third of the course (two weeks, Monday through Friday).
Instruction for the teamwork project generally t into two lecture categories:
genre (i.e., instructional documents, user tests, and team charters) and rhe-
torical tools (i.e., strategies for innovation, collaborative writing, leadership,
and document distribution).
Data Collection. I used two tools to collect the data for my analysis:
student-meeting recordings and innovation debriefs.
First, I drew data from four recordings of live student meetings. Students
would record their meetings over Zoom and then upload their meetings for
Table 2. (continued)
Likert-Style Question
Answered on a 15 Scale Justication/Reasoning for Question
18 It is difcult to ask other members of
this team for help.
Measure an individuals sense of
psychological safety on the team
19 No one on this team would
deliberately act in a way that
undermines my efforts.
Measure an individuals sense of
psychological safety on the team
20 Working with members of my team,
my unique skills and talents are
valued and utilized.
Measure an individuals sense of
psychological safety on the team
Moreau 11
analysis. One recording took place prior to students receiving instruction on
innovation rhetoric, one recording just after, and the nal two recordings
took place as the teams continued work on their projects. As there were four
teams, a total of 16 team meetings were uploaded for analysis. These 16 meet-
ings totaled 534 min (8 h, 54 min) and were transcribed prior to analysis.
Second, I drew data from studentsanswers to the innovation debriefs.
These four debriefs were assigned to collect student metacommentary on
innovation rhetoric. Because the debriefs were reective, they functioned
both as a pedagogical tool and a data-collection instrument. The questions
on the debriefs were formatted for either text entry, Likert, single-selection,
or multiple-selection responses. Table 3 lists the questions students
answered for every debrief. Each of the 16 students completed a debrief
four times throughout the teaming process. Out of a possible 64 completed
debriefs, 63 were uploaded by students for analysis. When reporting student
discourse from meetings and reections, I use pseudonyms created via an
online random-name generator.
Analysis. The analysis draws from three types of data for Study 2:
student-meeting transcripts, studentswritten reections, and students
answers to the innovation debriefs. Because Study 2 is interested in the
actual versus the reported use of innovation rhetoric, the emphasis of this
analysis is on the team-meeting recordings. Supplemental data that supports
ndings from the transcript data include qualitative statements and self-
reported ratings from the innovation debriefs.
The coding for the student transcripts expanded upon the descriptive,
grounded theorybased coding scheme that I used in my previous workplace
study (Moreau, 2020). Student discourse was segmented by speaker and ana-
lyzed for instances of the four factors of innovation rhetoric. Table 4 docu-
ments the coding scheme adapted from the workplace study for use in
student transcription analysis. Because the coding for this model
moved into a more prescriptive role, I sought interrater reliability.
Interrater reliability was achieved using Cohens Kappa (к)ona
sample of 11% of transcript data (roughly 60 min of student meetings
divided evenly among each of the four student teams). Agreement
between two coders was found at (к)=0.803 (or 80.3%), indicating
that there was substantial interrater agreement (Geisler & Swarts,
2019; Landis & Koch, 1977; Lombard et al., 2002; Saldaña, 2015).
Thus, I determined that observing student use of the four factors of rhe-
torical innovation combined with reviewing studentsreections on
those uses was an effective measure for investigating if and how students
can be taught practices for innovation rhetoric.
12 Journal of Business and Technical Communication 0(0)
Table 3. Reection Questions That Students Answered About Innovation
Rhetoric for Each of the Innovation Debriefs.
Block Question
Block 1:
Which innovation debrief are you
Select your name: Single
Select your team: Single
Block 2:
Asking students if innovation
took place
Broadly reect on your recent
team meeting. How did it go? In
what ways have you been able
(or unable) to hold productive
discussions during your team
meetings? What did you
personally contribute to the
team session?
(30-word minimum)
Text entry
How would you rate your team,
with 1 being low, and 5 being
high, along the following
quality of your teams
effectiveness of the team to
complete projects
the collegiality/sociability of
Were you able to innovate? Single
Block 2.1a:
Following up on students
who selected innovation
What element of project 4
were you able to innovate
To what degree were you able to
innovate on the element you
In complete sentences, what
helped your team foster
innovation in this recent
meeting? (30-word minimum)
Text entry
Moreau 13
Table 3. (continued)
Block Question
Block 2.1b:
Looking for how students
instantiated innovation when
innovation occurredwas
Prompt: When thinking about
your recent team session
where you witnessed or made
an effort to innovate on your
team project, try to think in
terms of specics. Recall what
people said and the actions they
did. Then refer to team
minutes, the team charter, and
other team processes to use as
evidence supporting your
Questions: What happened?
Describe where the team
was in the discussion, where
it went, and how you got
(50-word minimum)
Text entry
In a word or phrase, how would
you name the "tactic" or
strategy used to foster
innovation in the case youve
Text entry
How effective do you think this
effort was at fostering team
Block 2.2:
Following up on students
who selected innovation
did not occur
Were there any elements of
project 4 in which you thought
there might have been an
opportunity to
How much potential was there to
innovate for the element(s) you
Block 3:
Getting students to think
ahead for the next meeting
Mark any elements of project 4
where you see potential for
innovation to occur in the next
team meeting:
14 Journal of Business and Technical Communication 0(0)
Study 1 Results
The results of the rst study offer two important ndings for my question
regarding the efcacy of innovation rhetoric pedagogy. These ndings are
informed by the survey results reported in Table 5 as well as the supplemental
reection data provided in line with the insights presented here. The study
provided these two insights: The experimental group favored productive con-
ict, and the experimental group was less likely to keep ideas to themselves.
Finding 1: The Experimental Group Favored Productive Conict
The experimental group tended to report more engagement with productive
conict. In particular, Question 2 shows a statistically signicant ( p=.05)
difference between control and experimental groups concerning team
levels of conict avoidance; the experimental group reported a higher afn-
ity to confront ideational conict.
The perspective that the experimental group favored productive conict
more than the control group did is supported by supplemental ndings from
the studentsqualitative reections. For instance, one student noted that the
biggest takeaway I had from the [tutorial] was the idea that discourse and con-
icting opinions can facilitate the development of further discussion and
Table 3. (continued)
Block Question
Of those elements that you
picked, name and describe the
specic aspect or quality you
think is ripe for innovation.
(30-word minimum)
Text entry
What type of strategy for
fostering innovation do you
think would be effective to use
in your next meeting? (Select all
that you think would be useful.)
Briey describe why you think the
strategy or strategies you
selected would be useful for
fostering innovation for the
element(s) you selected:
Text entry
Moreau 15
Table 4. Coding Scheme Used to Analyze Student-Meeting Transcripts.
Segment Aims, Explanation, and
Temporality Example
Seek Discover new topics, lines of thought,
arguments, or perspectives not
previously raised to the team
Discoveries may be found within
the team or external to the team
(e.g., an outside expert or text).
Temporality =new, opening a
Did you have any thoughts
Do you have any
I had a question…”
I was wondering…”
Lets ask …”
Lets get another opinion
What do you think about …”
Focus Develop a deeper understanding of a
topic, line of thought, argument or
perspective already raised to the
team, either implicitly or explicitly
Developed understandings may
involve prompts, probes, and
inquiry into disagreements or
conicting ideas.
Temporality =middle, expanding a
Do you think [a] or [b] (or [z]) is
the best?
Do you want to include [x] or
[y] (or [z])?
I was thinking [this other
way]. Lets discuss.
Im assuming [x]. Is this
Isnt this [x]? How is it [y]?
It isnt [z]. Why isnt it [z]?
Maybe we could do [this]
instead of [this]?
No, I mean [x], not [y].
Should we explore [x] or [y]
(or [z])?
What do you mean by [x]?
What if we did [this other
thing]?”“How would that…”
Whats the difference
between [x] and [y] (or [z])?
Yes, but I think [y], not [x].
Return Recuperate or plan to revisit a
previous topic, discussion,
decisions, arguments or
Recuperation reopens, or makes
plans to reopen, a line of thought
that may have been forgotten,
decided upon, or tabled until later.
After we discuss [y], lets make
sure to talk about [x] again.
Do you remember a prior
[conversation]? I think…”
I would like to revisit our
conversation/decision and …”
Once we decide on [y], we
can come back to talking about
16 Journal of Business and Technical Communication 0(0)
greater ideas, and should therefore be pursued rather than avoided.This view-
point was shared by others, including another student who wrote, I learned
that the best way to foster innovation in a team setting is, kind of counterintu-
itively, through problems between the members.Both these students from the
experimental section valued the pursuit of generative conict and considered
such pursuit as being important for innovation. Additionally, the student in
the second example mentions that team-based generative conict is counter-
intuitive,suggesting that the pedagogy teaches students new material.
Finding 2: The Experimental Group Was Less Likely to Keep Ideas
to Themselves
The experimental group was also less likely to keep ideas to themselves. Question
10 showed a statistically signicant (p=.004) difference between the two groups
in studentsreported ability to continue innovation well into the project.
Specically, the experimental group reported more openness to sharing new
ideas with their team even if the team was already pursuing a different idea.
In her reection, one student in an experimental group framed innovation
in terms of the rhetorical move to return to previous discourse, commenting
that leaving room for future discourse and returning to the discussion
allows people to explore all possible directions of a discussion and create
possibility for further innovation.This comment suggests that the experi-
mental group was able to value ideational discourse not just during brain-
storming but also in future meetings for their projects.
The ability to continue ideating beyond the initial stage is an important com-
ponent of innovation, a nding that Cross and Sides (2017) described as a
Table 4. (continued)
Segment Aims, Explanation, and
Temporality Example
Temporality =old, reopening a
Thats what I was saying at a
previous meeting…”
Trust Create a sense of good nature and
comradery among fellow
Good nature can include politeness
Temporality =throughout, ongoing in
I love that!
Thats cool.
OMG, thats smart.
[Sorry,] go ahead.
Im good, how are you guys?
Thats a good observation.
Moreau 17
Table 5. Responses to Survey Questions From Students in the Control Group
Versus Those of Students in the Experimental Group.
No. Survey Question and Category
M (SD) M(SD)
Productive conict
1 My team has productive conicts. 2.50 (1.05) 2.88 (0.77)
2 My team avoids conicts over ideas. 3.00 (1.27) 2.36 (1.13)
3 My teammates tend to think similarly. 3.42 (0.84) 3.44 (0.98)
4 My teammates tend to think differently. 1.96 (0.98) 1.84 (0.83)
Innovative resources
5 My team uses strategies to solicit input from
everyone on team.
2.96 (1.02) 2.96 (1.11)
6 My team uses strategies to pursue new
3.00 (0.96) 3.08 (0.84)
7 My team uses strategies to revisit old ideas. 2.54 (0.89) 2.80 (1.02)
8 My team uses strategies to get more
3.12 (0.97) 2.88 (1.07)
9 My team uses strategies to investigate
problems associated with our ideas.
2.92 (0.92) 3.12 (0.82)
Social cohesion versus productive conict
10 Do you ever nd yourself keeping a new
idea to yourself if the team is already
working hard on a different idea?
2.15 (1.17) 1.60 (1.25)
11 Do you challenge the ideas posed by your
teammates early on in projects?
2.69 (1.1) 2.56 (1.02)
12 Do you challenge ideas posed by your
teammates in middle-to-late stages of
your projects?
1.88 (1.4) 2.36 (1.13)
13 Do you refrain from challenging other
peoples ideas?
1.77 (1.05) 1.56 (1.2)
Psychological safety
14 If you make a mistake on this team, it is
often held against you.
1.12 (0.97) 1.32 (0.97)
15 Members of this team are able to bring up
problems and tough issues.
3.38 (1) 3.40 (0.75)
16 People on this team sometimes reject
others for being different.
0.58 (0.93) 0.52 (0.75)
17 It is safe to take a risk on this team. 3.73 (0.81) 3.72 (1.0)
18 Journal of Business and Technical Communication 0(0)
difference between breadth and depth, with depth being the more important and
harder to reach stage in which teams develop, elaborate, and evaluate team
The ndings from the rst study suggest that students who received
instruction in rhetorical practices for innovation were better equipped to
innovate than were their peers who did not receive such instruction. This
claim is supported by statistically signicant survey ndings that show
that members of the experimental group were more likely to favor produc-
tive conict and share their ideas deep into the teaming process than were
their peers in the control group.
But further investigation into the pedagogy of innovative rhetoric is
warranted. For instance, Study 1 relies on self-reported data. Thus, the
claim that the pedagogy inuenced studentsinnovative ability is
limited to their own reporting on the practice of innovation rhetoric, not
an observed use of that practice. Further, because one of the experimental
groups was taught by me, and the students in that group were the ones
who wrote their supplemental reections, they might have provided the
responses that they thought I would want to see rather than what they can-
didly wanted to report. And nally, a response rate of 55% points toward
some selection bias.
Despite these issues, the results from Study 1 remain encouraging. The
fact that a 13-minute instructional video was able to show some positive
change in the studentsinnovation rhetoric practices suggests that there is
more to uncover and understand about the transfer and teachability of the
pedagogy of innovation rhetoric.
Table 5. (continued)
No. Survey Question and Category
18 It is difcult to ask other members of this
team for help.
1.00 (1.21) 1.44 (1.1)
19 No one on this team would deliberately act
in a way that undermines my efforts.
4.42 (0.74) 4.12 (0.99)
20 Working with members of my team, my
unique skills and talents are valued and
3.73 (0.94) 3.40 (0.75)
Note:p< .05; p< .01; 1 =disagree; 5 =agree.
Moreau 19
Study 2 Results
Three ndings resulted from my analysis of team-meeting recordings, stu-
dentswritten reections, and studentsanswers to the debrief questions.
These three ndings emerged from the initial coding, but I was able to
make more interpretive ndings after considering all sets of data. First, I
found that students were able to practice and reect on the four moves of
innovation rhetoric. Second, I found that students were able to integrate col-
laborative writing techniques with innovation rhetoric in order to facilitate
discussion and delay consensus. And third, I found that students need
more scaffolding to see difference as a generative resource.
Finding 1: Students Were Able to Practice Innovation Rhetoric in
Their Teams
The rst nding that emerged from the data was that students were able to inte-
grate the four moves of innovation rhetoric into their teams. Responses to the
debrief questions show that students reported high levels of innovation,
project quality, team effectiveness, and team collegiality (see Tables 6 and 7).
Data from meeting transcripts as well as student reections support the
ndings from the debrief questions that students were able to practice inno-
vation rhetoric. For example, in one transcript, Katie effectively used the
innovation rhetoric move focusing on difference:
I was just looking at the one that you made; it looks really good. I was a little
bit confused about one thing. There is the desirable locations for CMU stu-
dents section and then there are the three sections listed. Then later, theres
What is Oakdale?”“What is Shadyview?”“What is Acorn Hill?Whats
the differences between these two parts?
Katie focused on difference by escalating a point of confusion for her.
Further, she managed her teams trust with a hedged escalation move, com-
plimenting her peers work (it looks really good) and framing her own
state as a little bit confused.
I observed this particular discourse strategy in my workplace study (and
taught it in the tutorial) when a female professional spoke to her male superior
in order to disagree with him. She focused on her difference with him by pairing
hedging discourse with an invitation: This is different than what I expected. I
might have missed something []Lets work through this(Moreau, 2020,
p. 397). Katie similarly avoided confrontational language when she asked
20 Journal of Business and Technical Communication 0(0)
about the differences in an aspect of her teams website. Katies discourse strat-
egy during this team meeting, which is similar both in terms of gender dynamic
and discursive approach with that of the workplace professional, is one example
of a successful student practice of innovation rhetoric.
Areection from a student on another team indicated that students could
link the ways in which their instructional guides could be distributed to
reach the widest audience, showing evidence of studentsability to link dif-
ference with innovative ability:
Deegan: We have selected the platform for instruction implementation.
Due to the customizable nature of GitHub, we have many
potential aspects of interactivity that we can innovate. Also,
because of our diversied backgrounds, we have many differ-
ent perspectives on distribution strategies.
In terms of difference, Deegan keyed in on diversied backgroundsand
different perspectivesas valuable assets in the innovation process.
Studentscomments also demonstrated their effective practice of the inno-
vation rhetoric move to seek out new discourse. Here are a few examples:
Allen: Are we going to work on these two categories, or do we
have any new ideas?
Deegan: Did you guys have any opinions, or did you guys want to
move things around? Or think anything was special or productive
Clara: We referred to a number of outside sources from examples
on canvas to web results on Google. Looking at the results adds
more perspectives to our discussion.
In these three examples (the 1st two from transcripts and the last one a reec-
tion), students showed that they were able to seek out new discourse by
Table 6. Student Reports on Innovation Occurrence and the Effectiveness of the
Rhetorical Innovation Moves.
Student Ratings on the Following Aspects M(n=63) SD
How much innovation occurred? 4.17 0.92
How effective do you think this effort was at fostering team
4.37 0.78
Note.1=low; 5 =high.
Moreau 21
soliciting new ideas before proceeding and that they could draw from
outside examples for new perspectives.
These discursive moves are similar to those I found in my workplace
study (Moreau, 2020) in which the biotech workers would ask prompting
questions (e.g., Are you okay with this decision? Do you have anything
else to say?). But one large difference between the students and the profes-
sionals is that the professionals were more aggressive in calling out individ-
uals to contribute discourse. For example, the students tended to phrase their
seeking out moves as polite questions, such as Did you guys have any opin-
ions,whereas the professionals tended to bluntly call out individuals with
statements such as You got your chance here in this meeting [to talk]. Lets
discuss,or You and I cant agree. Lets get a third person to come in or we
will bin [the discussion] as inconclusive.Although the professionals were
more assertive in seeking out new discourse, they were likely able to be
more assertive, at least in part, because they were accustomed to working
together on a teamnot to mention the heightened stakes of a professional
biotech context. But even though the students hedged more than the profes-
sionals did, they were able to effectively practice seeking out new discourse.
Students also showed that they were able to use the innovation rhetoric moves
by being able to name their innovative strategies. In the reection questions for the
innovation debriefs (see Table 3), students were asked to name in their own words
what tacticthey used to foster innovation.The results were grouped into the
four moves of innovation rhetoric. This grouping showed that students articulated
a preponderance of trust moves (see Table 8). Of the 63 words that students use to
name their innovative strategies, 28 (44%) referred to tactics for building trust.
Studentsemphasis on trust-building discourse could be related to the heightened
restrictions on their teams interpersonal communication due to virtual team ses-
sions. Examples of the trust-building strategies that students named included lis-
tening,showing consideration,”“understand[ing] each other,and putting
[your]self into othersshoes.While trust building perhaps was not as
Table 7. Student Reports of Project Quality, Team Effectiveness, and Collegiality.
Student Ratings on the Following Aspects M(n=63) SD
Quality of team project 4.51 0.61
Teams ability to complete projects 4.6 0.75
Collegiality of team 4.71 0.55
Note.1=low; 5 =high.
22 Journal of Business and Technical Communication 0(0)
intellectually interesting as the other moves to foster rhetorical invention and inno-
vation, the students showed that it was important to their teamwork.
Studentsconcern for trust was evident throughout their reections in the
innovation debriefs. Allen noted his team needed trust in order to proceed:
I think we could denitely work on building up the interpersonal relationship
aspect of group work. We still dont know one another very well and I think
that getting to know one another for like at least 5 min next meeting would
help build a sense of camaraderie. Things that we could talk about include: intro-
duction, why we took this course, goals for the course, interests, activities outside
of this class for the summer, extracurriculars/hobbies during the school year.
Allen brainstormed a list of questions he could ask at the start of the next
meeting to build his teamscamaraderie.Indeed, at the next meeting he
asked these questions, and the team was then able to move into more project-
focused work.
Julia commented on the relationship between using video and building
I believe the fact that we all turned on our cameras helped us innovate since we
were able to read each others emotions and reactions to different ideas we put
across. This also helped us build rapport with one another and eased the initial
overly-polite awkwardness bound to happen on rst meeting.
By remarking that there was initial overly-polite awkwardnesswhen her
team rst organized, Julia reafrms the nding that students were overly
concerned with hedging language to facilitate trust. She suggested that stu-
dentsturning on their cameras for meetings enabled greater teamwork
because nonverbal cues can be read and linked to trust, a nding reported
by Flammia et al. (2016, p. 37).
An example from the meeting transcripts shows how students used dis-
course to build trust while establishing team member availability. Here is
how Liam posed the issue to his team:
I dont think its a lot. Were all CS [Computer Science] kids, right? I think it
should be okay. How much bandwidth do you guys have, though, these
coming two weeks?
By checking in with the students on his team to see if they had enough band-
widthin the upcoming two weeks to be able to contribute to the project, Liam
Moreau 23
is establishing a state of favorable expectation regarding other peoples
actions and intentions(Möllering, 2001, p. 404). That is, he is using discourse
to build trust. To determine whether students can practice innovation rhetoric
once taught, it is important to examine if students thought about innovation
rhetoric as a cohesive system of practices that can help them address the
problem of how to innovate. Several student reections support my claim
that students used the moves as an integrated system and not necessarily as dis-
crete steps. Here are three students who made connections between the four
innovation rhetoric moves:
Allen: Since we are almost at the end of the project, we need to con-
stantly return to ideas proposed earlier and see how they can t
in. Focus on disagreements and nd new information are just as
important, because they have been useful in the past. And my
team is doing great so we dont need to work on inter-group
Mindy: I think those strategies will be useful for fostering innovation
because focusing on disagreements or alternatives is vital in
order to make a good and effective draft. Returning to ideas
proposed earlier is also very important to ensure that we
value all ideas that will help us create quality work.
Clara: Disagreements usually stem from different ways of looking at
things. If a person does not think that taking a particular action
is in the best interest of the team but another person thinks oth-
erwise, it will be a ripe opportunity to look at each of the con-
cerns and come up with a hybrid approach that takes the best of
both perspectives and produce an even better course of action
than before.
Table 8. The 63 Words That Students Used to Name Their Innovation Strategies
Grouped Into the Four Rhetorical Innovation Moves.
Move % N=63
Seek new discourse 22 14
Focus on differences 27 17
Return to discourse 6 4
Build Trust 44 28
Note: Simple interrater agreement was achieved at 0.8.
24 Journal of Business and Technical Communication 0(0)
In these examples, students mentioned the moves in relation to each other.
Allen reected on how returning to previous discourse leads to innovation
by looking for ways in which that discourse can tinto the nal steps
of the project and on how the project beneted from seeking out new dis-
course and focusing on disagreements. Mindy and Clara both reected on
how focusing on difference is vitaland offers ripe opportunityfor inno-
vation. These reections show that students were able to incorporate the
vocabulary of innovation rhetoric into their teamwork practice and see the
relationship between each of the four moves in pursuit of fostering team
Finding 2: Students Integrated Collaborative Writing Techniques
With Innovation Rhetoric
Students were able to integrate collaborative writing techniques with inno-
vation rhetoric. The collaborative writing practices included layered writing
over a shared document and using a proscons list to delay consensus.
Students used a method of collaborative writing, layered writing, in
which team members cowrite a document holistically that resembles profes-
sional workplace practices (Wolfe, 2017, p. 7). Layered approaches to col-
laborative writing are distinct from divided approaches in which each
student takes a section of the whole and assembles each section afterward.
In the case of this course, students were able to synchronously cowrite using
a layered approach via a shared online document.
Layered writing over an online document often involved discussions
about word choice. Sometimes these microlevel discussions would move
into larger rhetorical concerns, such as when one team tried to nd out
the correct wording for a how-tostatement:
Samuel: This place they sign up forI dont know if it makes sense.
For the writing consultations, we say[typing] I dont
know how should we say that one: How to receive[cross-
talk] or …“how to obtain,I dont know. How to"I
guess those receiving writing consultations.
Blair: No, I dont know. Im looking up other words for receive,
acquire, obtaining, gain, get”…
Clara: Is it obtain?No.
Samuel: That sounds weird.
Blair: Yeah.
Moreau 25
Clara: How to get”… doesnt sound really good either. How many
timesOh, we already used receivedtwice, okay.
Blair: How to
Samuel: What if we just put at the top how to receiveand then just
list the writing center?
Students in this team struggled to overcome a word-choice problem and
solved it by making a higher order organizational move. Their
micro-to-macro layered collaborative writing is an example of innovation
rhetoric in that it shows studentsability to seek out new discursive
options, not just regarding the words themselves but in the ways in which
those words are organized.
Another team used layered writing to generate discourse for discussion.
One team struggling to have a productive discussion used layered writing to
develop each individuals ideas:
Allen: Lets just start typing. What about this? Lets do a three-minute
typing session and then, three minutes later, and we can discuss
all the things weve added.
Allens proposal demonstrated an interesting way to consider how layered
writing can be used to get teams to take a positiona practice that the pro-
fessionals in my workplace study would use to focus on discourses of dif-
ference (Moreau, 2020). In the professional setting, a team leader would
ask the team members to state a hypothesis and provide reasons for why
or why not that hypothesis would hold true, generating a discussion on
the team memberstacitly held assumptions and thus uncovering their
Another team used a similar approach, using a 15-minute time limit for
free writing followed by a discussion of what everyone wrote. This approach
allowed for multiple elements of innovation rhetoric to be practiced. This
free writing accomplishes the innovative rhetoric move of seeking out
new discourse, the discussion enables the move of focusing on difference,
and the pairing of the two together (free writing followed by discussion)
over a shared document fosters trust-building discourse. Samuel reected
on the effect that layered writing had on his team:
While we innovated and discussed ideas on why certain examples were good
or not, we also wrote down those very points we came up with directly on the
26 Journal of Business and Technical Communication 0(0)
google doc. This enabled every one of us to clarify what we meant because it
was usually one person putting forth his idea and another writing it down. This
back and forth clarication greatly improved communication.
Samuel noted in the reection how the back and forthof transcribing ideas
allowed for those ideas to be claried and challenged. In other words, the
team used the layered writing over the shared document as a generative
tool to innovate further rhetorical work.
In addition, Clara commented on the process benets of layered writing:
When we were discussing the ethics section of the rhetorical analysis, we were
throwing out ideas at the beginning in unstructured phrases. The freedom of
not thinking about expressing thought in complete sentences was very effec-
tive in innovation. Later, some group members took the time to transform
broken phrases into complete sentences.
Layered writing, then, beneted both the inventional process (as freedom)
and the revisions. Clara shows how innovation can be facilitated when the
practice of seeking out new discourse is supplemented by a trustworthy
team working to transform broken phrasesinto useful discourse for
Another way that students integrated collaborative writing with innova-
tion rhetoric was to use proscons lists to delay consensus and generate
more discussion. During one team meeting, the group seemed to be prema-
turely deciding on a course of action:
Katie: Okay. Are we just going to work on these two categories or do
we have any new ideas?
Allen: Lets see.
Katie: What are we possibly thinking about doing?
Julia: Should we just vote for this?
Allen: Well, okay, lets do pros and cons. Just thinking practical, what
do we get out of doing a meal plan and then what do we get out
of doing on-campus or off-campus RA? Do we have more to
talk about? Do we have less to talk about? Whats going to
make our job the easiest?
This important moment in the student meeting shows a key theoretical
feature of DDI and innovation rhetoricthe art of delaying consensus.
Moreau 27
Delaying consensus was an important move that I observed in the workplace
study as well (Moreau, 2020). For example, one of the project managers in
the workplace study would solicit input from her team by asking, Are you
okay with this? Do you have anything else to say?before a nal decision
was made.
In the debriefs, Katie reected on how Allen had solicited more discourse
from his peers and, in doing so, delayed a vote on what project to ultimately
We were ve minutes into our discussion of the ideas and a teammate pro-
posed voting to settle on an idea. There was a sort of elephant in the room
that we are not fully ready to decide and Allen suggested we should rst
list the pros and cons of each idea.
To Katie, the rush to vote on a project idea was an elephant in the room,
indicating that the ideas that had been suggested were not yet developed or
discussed enough.
Julia, however, framed that moment in the meeting as not an issue of pre-
mature consensus but an inability to nd agreement:
We could not decide on the project idea. Allen proposed that we should write
down pros and cons for each idea, and then I followed up with saying we
should have a writing session where we comment on all the possible ideas
with their pros and cons, and we can discuss together. After having all the
pros and cons together in the Google doc, the discussion went much smoother,
and we were able to agree on an idea and had a lot of thoughts for it.
Julia noted here that in addition to helping solve the problem of what project
to pursue, the proscons list also facilitated a smootherdiscussion and,
more important for innovation, helped generate more thoughts on the idea
eventually settled on.
Mindy corroborated her teamsreections:
Instead of voting on the ideas immediately, we rst analyze the pros and cons
of each. And all of us help facilitate the discussion and do not have an overly
dominant voice that deters others.
We had pro/con writing sessionswhere we put down individual thoughts in
a Google doc, then we reviewed what was put down altogether as a group, and
nally make a decision after.
28 Journal of Business and Technical Communication 0(0)
This was the only instance in which members of the team (i.e., Katie,
Allen, Julia, and Mindy) individually reected on a moment shared by
everyone on the team. Such a moment is a testament to the powerful
role that innovation rhetoric had on the students when they chose to
slow down, discuss more options, and add depth and nuance to their
options before making a decision.
Finding 3: Students Need More Scaffolding to See Difference as a
Generative Resource
A third nding emerged in the data suggesting that students appeared to
value difference as a resource but typically only as it supported the other rhe-
torical moves of seeking out new discourse and building trust. They failed to
appreciate the full rhetorical power of difference as a generative resource to
maintain in its own right and something that must be boldly pursuedoften
against our instincts to maintain social cohesion. Table 9 lists the frequen-
cies of studentsanswers to the debrief question, What type of strategy
for fostering innovation do you think would be effective to use in your
next meeting?(see Table 3). Only 12 of the 94 (12.77%) answers were
the move that is taught as having the most impact on team innovation.
Although in their reections, students used a variety of trust-building key
words to describe their team strategies (e.g., collaboration,”“coordina-
tion,”“listening), they seldom used such words in reecting on their prac-
tice of focusing on discourses of difference (e.g., object when necessaryor
postpone big decision until full consideration).
Although students were able to practice the moves of innovation rhetoric,
they only tended to value different perspectives when those perspectives
came as external feedback. While valuing external feedback is useful for
innovation, the pedagogy aimed to teach students how to use a teams inter-
nal dynamic to generate differences in pursuit of innovation. Heres how
Liam interpreted critical feedback on a draft from the instructor:
We understood that our direction would need to change due to the feedback
that we received, but we are/were not stressed about that. For some reason,
Ind it interesting that our process is seamless. We know our positions and
we wont cross any lines.
Liamsreection depicts a socially cohesive (i.e., trusting), efcient team.
By most measures, instructors would be happy to see students describe
Moreau 29
their team processes as seamlessand not stressful. This reection shows
that the team was able to innovate (our direction would need to change)
after hearing different discourse (the feedback we received).
But this reection does not provide evidence of the teams internal efforts
to focus on discourse of difference. For example, the professionals in my
workplace study (Moreau, 2020) would seek out new discourse in order
to produce feedback, as the students have done here, but they would also
escalate differences between team members in order to understand their
positions better and challenge more silent teammates to form and defend
hypotheses that would generate arguments.
Other student reections support the nding that the students valued dif-
ference but only when it came externally. Samuel and Mindy reected on
difference when it came from user-testing results:
Samuel: Viewing outside sources offer new perspectives that might be
ignored by us. Because there is a lot of information that our
project involves but we are not familiar with, adding outside
sources directly help[s] us consider more aspects.
Mindy: I think nding new information and perspectives would be
useful for fostering innovation for user testing as none of the
other three strategies apply to our situation where we already
have inter-group trust, but little disagreement and idea proposed.
Both Samuel and Mindy recognized that new perspectives might highlight
what the team has collectively ignored. While it is valuable for students
to recognize that seeking out new discourse can tie into the practice of focus-
ing on difference, this analysis also shows that students tend to depend on
outside feedback in order to nd difference.
Likewise, the pedagogy failed to teach students that focusing on dis-
courses of difference sometimes means interrogating difference that is not
yet voiced. Mindy mentioned that her team has little disagreementand
few proposedideas. In fact, when those two conditions (little disagree-
ment and few ideas) exist is exactly when the team can focus on difference
by escalating what seem to be subtle differences or uncovering unheard dif-
ferences by asking each other to form hypotheses.
In other teams, students spoke about valuing difference in teams but only
as it supported trust building. For them, the value of focusing on difference
remained in its function to promote social cohesion rather than innovation
and invention. Blair reected on how they were able to politely disagree
within his team:
30 Journal of Business and Technical Communication 0(0)
When someone stated that we need paper instructions, I said that there is a
possibility that students will lose the paper or throw it away. Thus, having
a website will best serve the needs of our audience. So, listening to others
and giving opinion makes a strong discussion. I also ensured stating my
opinion politely and in a convincing way, which ended the discussion with
the person being convinced. Choosing the right way to raise an idea is very
important in every discussion and maintains a good tone.
Typically a reection like this would make instructors happy. Blair noted
that he stated his opinionabout a different approach to the project
politely and in a convincing waywhile maintaining a good tone.In
this case, innovation did occur; however, this reection does not show
that Blair focused on different perspectives at play. For this team, there
was a ripe opportunity to escalate the paper and the website options and
by so doing add depth to the teams understanding of those options (or
perhaps other options).
Clara spoke to how focusing on discourses of difference can facilitate
trust within the team but not necessarily innovation:
I think that if we each share our initial thoughts we can come up with new
ideas. And by focusing on disagreements and alternative interpretations, we
can nd common ground to keep everyone motivated in the project.
Focusing on disagreements can spark conversations to produce new ideas as
well as make sure everyone is involved.
On the surface, these two reections seem to show that Clara learned and
appreciated the value of difference as a resource, but her valuing of differ-
ence is linked to its ability to nd common groundand make sure every-
one is involved”—two elements of social cohesion but not necessarily
innovation. Ultimately, what these links reveal is that students were able
Table 9. Student Answers to the Question, What Types of Rhetorical Strategies
Do you Plan to Use Next Meeting?
Rhetorical Innovation Move % Count (N=94)
Find new or more information and perspectives 46.81 44
Focus on disagreements or alternative interpretations 12.77 12
Return to issues/concerns/ideas proposed earlier 27.66 26
Build or reestablish intergroup trust 12.77 12
Moreau 31
to understand and value the concept of focusing on difference. What seems
to be missing, however, is an approach to teamwork that pursues difference
without being saddled to social cohesion.
Nevertheless, the fact that students can practice escalation and
hypothesis-driven thinking in their teams is promising. One student,
Allen, even equated a problematic teaming session to the Abilene paradox
a condition in which the collective group makes a decision against the
(often unspoken) wishes of the individuals within the group (Harvey,
1974; Kim, 2001):
There was a lot of silence in between the team members at times. We didnt
know what to say and what to suggest. We all felt uncomfortable voicing our
opinions which I think might be because we were all afraid of suggesting
something that other people wouldnt wantkind of like an Abilene
Paradox situation.
Here Allen provides a window into why escalating and hypothesis driving
could be difcult for students to practice, especially in team engagements
with a limited time window. The issues Allen observed included students
discomfort voicing our opinions”—an excellent reason to use the shared
google doc to generate defendable hypothesesand being afraid of sug-
gesting something that other people wouldnt want.Allen used words
such as uncomfortableand afraidto point out the real culprit that pre-
vents students from successfully focusing on difference not as an issue of
trust but as an issue of chutzpah. Trust may provide the necessary psycho-
logical safety climate (Bradley et al., 2012) in which students can feel com-
fortable challenging one another; however, one of the key offerings of an
innovation rhetoric pedagogy is to provide students with tools to pursue
innovation when team trust is still in its infancy.
In a nal example, Samuel showed where I could intervene specically to
help student teams take risks and escalate differences:
We have not had any issues with inter-group trust or disagreements on ideas.
We have been very open and considerate to each others perspectives, so the
best course of action to take next would be to nd new information and
This reection shows that Samuel found his team to have a psychologically
safe climate in which to openly disagree and discuss ideas. Although Samuel
points to one of the practices of innovation rhetoric, nding new discourse,
32 Journal of Business and Technical Communication 0(0)
he misses a chance to leverage his teams trust to pursue the practice of
focusing on difference. What would have made this reection exemplary
is if he had suggested that his team nd new information and perspectives
internally, within the team, by creating hypotheses for testing or escalating
differences for discussion as the workplace professionals demonstrated
(Moreau, 2020).
One reason why students might have avoided focusing on discourses of
difference, particularly the move to escalate (vs. patching up) disagree-
ments, is that the move can be somewhat counterintuitive, perhaps espe-
cially to students, who tend to see getting along with everyone as a goal
of teamwork. As I found in my workplace study (Moreau, 2020), best prac-
tice for innovation rhetoric relies on a mode of DDI that prioritizes ideation,
innovation, and the team project over social cohesion. For students this can
be a difcult mind-set to own because they lack the contextual circumstance
of the workplace that motivates investment in the work that gets done as
much as in getting along with the people who do it.
I must admit, providing exemplary reections that highlight all four prac-
tices of innovation rhetoric is a tall order for students working on short team
projects. And with humility, I recognize the amazing work that these students
reported in their reections and how they engaged with the pedagogy in an
overt way. But as instructors, we share a calling to look for the moments we
missed or could have done better by reinforcing a key idea as an opportunity
for growth. Of the four moves that make up innovation rhetoric, focusing on
difference is the most important because it most directly engages with the
notion of difference as a valuable resource and has the most potential for dis-
covering innovations that are difcult to get to in team projects.
Further, from a larger, more humanistic perspective, we need to teach stu-
dents not only how to innovate in team projects, but why difference is valu-
able and how to enact that value through rhetorical practice. Often in our
lives, having psychological safety and social cohesion cannot be guaranteed
or realistically pursued. It is in those cases that we need discursive tools for
enabling an honest inquiry into the things that separate us from one another.
Conclusions and Future Research Directions
In this study I wanted to nd out if an innovation rhetoric pedagogy informed
by professional practice could be effectively taught and how students would
interpret such a pedagogy. I examined these questions over the course of two
semesters and two studies using quasi-experimental methods. I designed a
pedagogy of innovation rhetoric that incorporated an online tutorial,
Moreau 33
survey reections, and innovation debriefs. The pedagogy covered the four
moves of rhetorical innovation as informed by DDI theory, teaching students
how to seek out new discourse, focus on discourses of difference, return to
previous discourse, and build trust through discourse.
Promising but Provisional Findings
My rst question examined whether the innovation rhetoric pedagogy
worked in the classroom and, if so, how well. Preliminary, provisional nd-
ings from the rst study suggest that, yes, the TPC pedagogy as it stands
does help students practice innovation. The survey results from this study
in which I split six courses evenly into control and experimental groups,
with the experimental groups receiving the innovation rhetoric pedagogy,
show that students in the experimental group favored productive conict
and were less likely to keep ideas to themselves.
My second question examined how students interpreted and instantiated
the pedagogy during team meetings and in their reections about these meet-
ings. In Study 2, I wanted to gather data that were reective of actual student
experience with innovation rhetoric and compare these data with student
reections of their use of the tool. In this study, then, I analyzed student-
meeting recordings alongside a series of written reections called innova-
tion debriefs. The results show that students were able to practice the four
moves in their teams and integrate those moves with collaborative writing
practice but that they need more scaffolding to see difference as a generative
Overall, the ndings from this study (studies 1 and 2 together) contribute
to our theoretical knowledge concerning rhetorical invention, practical
models of teamwork, and pedagogy centered in the TPC classroom.
Rhetorical invention benets from this study by examining the role that
DDI can play as people construct new arguments and deepen their under-
standing of current arguments in pursuit of invention as innovation.
Practitioners can look for the ways in which discourse and innovation
connect and how those connections can be used in their workplace teams.
TPC pedagogy benets by having a case study of effective transfer such
as this study, which looks at how descriptive ndings in the workplace
can be transported to the classroom for instructional use. Additionally,
this study responds to challenges in the literature to approach TPC from a
workplace perspective (Jablonski, 2005; Rehling, 2005), particularly by
using design thinking (Greenwood et al., 2019; Lee, 2018; Pope-Ruark
et al., 2019; Weedon & Fountain, 2019).
34 Journal of Business and Technical Communication 0(0)
While these ndings are promising, they are provisional. In presenting
my analysis, I selected representative examples that instantiate use and
provide metaknowledge of rhetorical innovation factors. In this early
stage, I chose to focus on qualitative research questions (e.g., if and how stu-
dents performed rhetorical innovation) and not on quantitative ones (e.g.,
how many times or how many students performed rhetorical innovation).
Future work could strengthen or challenge these ndings by scaling the
research to larger groups. Further, my data relied on self-selected responses
(Study 1) and reections from my own students (Study 2). More studies
could not only add a quantitative dimension to the data but also increase
the datas validity.
Future Directions
Based off the ndings presented here, there are two immediate measures that
should be built into the innovation rhetoric pedagogy. The rst measure is to
explicitly teach and discuss the use of both proscons lists and free writing
on shared documents in order to help students continue ideation and differ-
ence gathering well into the team project. Because students in my study
already deployed these tools without those tools being explicitly taught,
reinforcing this already-observed student practice could enhance the
Although making more overt gestures toward collaborative writing
practices may patch up elements of the pedagogy, there remains a
more interesting puzzle to pursue. That is, how can we more effectively
instruct students to pursue difference as a generative resource? One
group of researchers suggest that dissensus can function as a lever
for more critical, collaborative, constructive design thinking
(Greenwood et al., 2019, p. 401). Thus, the second measure that needs
to be built into this pedagogy is to revisit the tutorial or create a separate
subtutorial in order to reinforce the instruction on the practices that pro-
fessionals use to pursue difference that specically leverage dissensus as
a means to innovationparticularly escalation and hypothesis forming.
While escalation and hypothesis forming were addressed in the tutorial,
more time needs to be spent on these two practices because students,
compared to workplace professionals, seemed overly concerned about
maintaining trust and social cohesion.
Yet reinforcing the pedagogy by focusing on the elements already taught
leaves these important questions unresolved: Why is it difcult for us to
adopt an approach to teamwork in which difference is viewed as a
Moreau 35
generative resource? And from a rhetorical perspective, what types of dis-
course and language strategies can people use to reinforce a teamwork
approach that is favorable to DDI?
In future research I hope to build on the growing literature of design
thinking in order to explore how we can approach teamwork in ways that
value innovation over social cohesion from a variety of theoretical perspec-
tives. From such new knowledge, we might be able to iterate a promising
pedagogy that helps students to better understand the importance of
framing the differences that set us apart as vibrant sources of rhetorical
Thank you to the C.R. Anderson Foundation for providing grant support to my
research; my colleagues Joanna Wolfe, Linda Flower, Necia Werner, and
Hannah Ringler; my students at Carnegie Mellon; and the editors and review-
ers of JBTC who offered this research improvement in its nal shape and
Declaration of Conicting Interests
The author declared no potential conicts of interest with respect to the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author disclosed receipt of the following nancial support for the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the C.R.
Anderson Research Fund,
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Author Biography
Craig Moreau received his PhD in Rhetoric from Carnegie Mellon University in
2021. His research examines teamwork and innovation in the workplace and in
the classroom.
40 Journal of Business and Technical Communication 0(0)
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
Leveraging a team’s diverse perspectives can be a powerful way to foster team innovation. A common approach to leverage team differences involves tool-based approaches, including brainstorming, mind-mapping, and whiteboarding. However, the effective use of ideational tools as a means to innovation often assumes high levels of team cohesion and productivity—dynamics that may not be safe to assume, especially in teams with high levels of diversity. This study investigates how workplace teams at a Biotech company use discourse to innovate, and in doing so, instantiate a larger rhetorical practice known as difference-driven inquiry.
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