Innovation in teams : a qualitative and quantitative study of team behaviours

  • Ros Forrester

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis explores the processes of team innovation. It utilises two studies, an organisationally based pilot and an experimental study, to examine and identify aspects of teams' behaviours that are important for successful innovative outcome. The pilot study, based in two automotive manufacturers, involved the collection of team members' experiences through semi-structured interviews, and identified a number of factors that affected teams' innovative performance. These included: the application of ideative & dissemination processes; the importance of good team relationships, especially those of a more informal nature, in facilitating information and ideative processes; the role of external linkages in enhancing quality and radicality of innovations; and the potential attenuation of innovative ideas by time deadlines. This study revealed a number key team behaviours that may be important in successful innovation outcomes. These included; goal setting, idea generation and development, external contact, task and personal information exchange, leadership, positive feedback and resource deployment. These behaviours formed the basis of a coding system used in the second part of the research. Building on the results from the field based research, an experimental study was undertaken to examine the behavioural differences between three groups of sixteen teams undertaking innovative an task to produce an anti-drugs poster. They were randomly assigned to one of three innovation category conditions suggested by King and Anderson (1990), emergent, imported and imposed. These conditions determined the teams level of access to additional information on previously successful campaigns and the degree of freedom they had with regarding to the design of the poster. In addition, a further experimental condition was imposed on half of the teams per category which involved a formal time deadline for task completion. The teams were video taped for the duration of their innovation and their behaviours analysed and coded in five main aspects including; ideation, external focus, goal setting, interpersonal, directive and resource related activities. A panel of experts, utilising five scales developed from West and Anderson's (1996) innovation outcome measures, assessed the teams' outputs. ANOVAs and repeated measure ANOVAs were deployed to identify whether there were significant differences between the different conditions. The results indicated that there were some behavioural differences between the categories and that over the duration of the task behavioural changes were identified. The results, however, revealed a complex picture and suggested limited support for three distinctive innovation categories. There were many differences in behaviours, but rarely between more than two of the categories. A main finding was the impact that different levels of constraint had in changing teams' focus of attention. For example, emergent teams were found to use both their own team and external resources, whilst those who could import information about other successful campaigns were likely to concentrate outside the team and pay limited attention to the internal resources available within the team. In contrast, those operating under task constraints with aspects of the task imposed onto them were more likely to attend to internal team resources and pay limited attention to the external world. As indicated by the earlier field study, time deadlines did significantly change teams' behaviour, reducing ideative and information exchange behaviours. The model shows an important behavioural progression related to innovate teams. This progression involved the teams' openness initially to external sources, and then to the intra-team environment. Premature closure on the final idea before their mid-point was found to have a detrimental impact on team's innovation. Ideative behaviour per se was not significant for innovation outcome, instead the development of intra-team support and trust emerged as crucial. Analysis of variance revealed some limited differentiation between the behaviours of teams operating under the aforementioned three innovation categories. There were also distinct detrimental differences in the behaviour of those operating under a time deadline. Overall, the study identified the complex interrelationships of team behaviours and outcomes, and between teams and their context.
Date of Award2000
Original languageEnglish


  • Innovation in teams
  • team behaviours

Cite this