23 May 2012

Design prototypes as boundary objects in innovation processes

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Holger Rhinow, Eva Köppen, and Christoph Meinel: Design Prototypes as Boundary Objects in Innovation Processes. Conference Paper in the Proceedings of the 2012 International Conference on Design Research Society (DRS 2012), Bangkok, Thailand, July 2012


In our paper we focus on how design prototypes can foster communications in organizations that deal with the development of innovations. We distinguish the impact of prototypes between two different organizational levels; we first conduct the impact of prototypes at the level of organizational design teams that develop ideas and concepts for solutions. We then focus on the impact of prototypes on the level of organizational teams and departments that have not been part of the initial design phase but are responsible for further developments in the innovation process, e.g. production, financing, and marketing.

Previous research has indicated that prototypes have a significant influence on both organizational levels. Prototypes, in the best cases, can become so-called boundary objects between different domains and stakeholders and may deliver positive effects within the innovation process. However, the successful management of stakeholders in this context remains highly challenging. In this paper we want to address these difficulties as well as the current state of research in this field. We propose that a prototype does not only stand for an important design technique but should moreover be regarded as a management tool that can be integrated into a structured dialogue between stakeholders. We provide first insights on what a structured dialogue, based on prototypes, can mean and what it thereby should imply. We will synthesize prior research findings and begin to develop a concept on how to utilize prototypes as boundary objects from a management perspective.

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