Teamwork for product innovation in Taiwanese family firms
: an indigenous psychology perspective: An indigenous psychology

  • Min-Wen Chang

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


As the existing team literature mostly excludes context and culture, little is known about how these elements affect real-life team working (Engestrom, 2008; Salas & Wildman, 2009), and how teams work in non-Western settings, such as in Chinese firms (Phan, Zhou, & Abrahamson, 2010).This research addresses this issue by investigating how new product design (NPD) teams use team working to carry out product innovation in the context of Chinese family businesses (CFBs) via an indigenous psychology perspective. Unlike mainstream teamwork literature which mostly employs an etic design, an indigenous psychology perspective adopts an emic approach which places emphasis on understanding real-life phenomena in context through a cultural-insider perspective (Kim, 2000). Compatible with this theoretical position, a multiple qualitative case study approach was used as the research methodology. Three qualitative case studies were carried out in three longstanding family-run manufacturing firms in Taiwan, where family firms have been the pillars of high economic growth in the past five decades (W.-w. Chu, 2009).
Two salient findings were established across the three case studies. First, the team processes identified across the three family firms are very similar with the exception of owners’ involvement and on-the-job training. All three family firms’ NPD teams are managed in a highly hierarchical manner, with considerable emphasis placed on hierarchical ranking, cost-effectiveness, efficiency, practicability, and interpersonal harmony. Second, new products developed by CFBNPD teams are mostly incremental innovation or copycat innovation, while radical or original products are rare. In many ways, CFBNPD teams may not be the ideal incubators for innovation. This is because several aspects of their unique context can cast constraints on how they work and innovate, and thus limit the ratio of radical innovation. A multi-level review into the facilitators and inhibitors of creativity or innovation in CFBNPD teams is provided. The theoretical and practical implications of the findings and the limitations of the study are also addressed.
Date of Award1 Jun 2012
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSamuel N Aryee (Supervisor)


  • Chinese family businesses
  • innovation
  • team work
  • context

Cite this