In Summary

The country that a designer is from can affect the way they think and work, and have an influence on how they fit in teams, Swinburne University of Technology research has found.

Designers of different nationality and design backgrounds were interviewed about their experiences working in teams made up mostly of a western or Chinese background.

The findings have been outlined in the article, The Nuances and Management of Multinational Design Teams – a Sino and Occidental Comparison, written by Swinburne Faculty of Engineering, Science and Technology academics Dr Clint Steele, Sarah van der Waal and Amanda Newing, and published in the Journal of Integrated Design and Process Science.

To date the majority of research into engineering design expertise has been done within a western context. With an increase in multinational design firms, designers are now more likely to work with people from different backgrounds.

The researchers’ experience in countries other than their own suggested that background could affect designers' thinking and working, and the nature of expertise.

Dr Steele said the aim was to identify key issues that influence the management of multinational design teams and how they can best be managed for greater success.

“Key findings included evidence that background - cultural, national and economic - can affect how a designer approaches problems and works,” Dr Steele said.

“This is especially so with regards to framing and goal analysis. This in turn can affect how successful a designer can be when they are working in a team with designers from another background, who operate differently.

“Designers with a low level attitude toward design and a lower level of emotional intelligence tend to be less able to work in such teams.

“However, the chance of success can be increased with the introduction of information technology tools to improve shared cognition and situational awareness.”

The research into western and Chinese backgrounds and engineering design expertise showed that a Chinese background encouraged low risk reliable designs and detailed thinking while a western background promoted unique ideas, systemic thinking and the use of objective knowledge.

However, while it was found that background did affect design skill and practice, the evidence also suggests that this is not permanent, and that individual change and improvement was possible.

Dr Steele will be discussing the findings as part of the Boroondara What If? Lecture Series, which showcases research that is being undertaken at Swinburne University of Technology.


What: What if? You could succeed anywhere in the world.

When: 7pm Tuesday, 28 April 2015.

Where: Hawthorn Library, 584 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn.


The Nuances and Management of Multinational Designs Teams – a Sino and Occidental Comparison can be accessed here.