Mapping the High Performance Design Team Genome

In August 2016, Dr. Kathryn Jablokow, associate professor of engineering design and mechanical engineering at Penn State Great Valley, and Dr. Neeraj Sonalkar, research engineer at Stanford University, received a two-year, $300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to examine teams of engineers working together to design and deliver products. Their study, “Mapping the High Performance Design Team Genome,” will determine the interactions and combinations of individual characteristics that make teams of engineers most successful.

NSF Grant

Dr. Jablokow and Dr. Sonalkar are currently seeking volunteer engineering or engineering design teams to participate in the study. Groups must already have experience working together.

How will teams be evaluated?

The study will evaluate teams in three different areas:

  1. Team interaction behavior — Dr. Jablokow and Dr. Sonalkar will use the Interaction Dynamics Notation (IDN) to depict communication patterns, including questions, blocks, supports, deflections, etc.
  2. Individual characteristics — participants will be assessed using the Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory (KAI) and the Engineering ABAKAS (Assessment of Behaviors, Attributes, Knowledge, Attitudes, and Skills) to evaluate style of creativity and other innate traits.
  3. Design performance outcomes — team outcomes/products will be analyzed based on their relevance, novelty, technical feasibility, and elaboration, among other metrics.

Where will the observations take place?

Volunteer teams do not have to be local to the greater Philadelphia area. Teams can be observed in half- or full-day workshops, either on-site at the company’s location or in the Knowledge Commons on the Penn State Great Valley campus in Malvern. Groups can work on an existing project, or a sample design task can be provided.

Will teams be compensated?

In exchange for your participation, you will receive detailed feedback on your team. Dr. Jablokow and Dr. Sonalkar will build a profile analyzing both individual characteristics and group behavior. This detailed consultation will provide your managers and group members with insight into how to harness their strengths for better performance and outcomes.