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Unpacking product modularity innovation in R&D teams

Martinez Martin, D. (2018). Unpacking product modularity innovation in R&D teams. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)

Abstract

Does modularity stimulate innovation or, on the other side, are these modules and standards limiting engineers and hindering innovative activities? Innovation is a crucial factor for the long-term survival of any organization. In order to reduce complexity, organizations introduce product modularity as one essential strategy for R&D. Modularity is extensively applied in the research of technology and organizations. However, collaboration in R&D teams working with product modularity is somewhat paradoxical, as it requires autonomy, on one hand, working and keeping modules separate in design, and yet interdependent on the other hand, as teams need to be participative in the integrative process of bringing different modules together. Building on the insight that product modularity can have contradictory effects on innovation, this dissertation is centered on the influences of product modularity on innovation under the specific R&D team context. Essentially, this study unpacks the understanding of the concept of product modularity by establishing the two essential dimensions of product modularity (i.e., module standardization and reconfiguration) and studying the effects on innovation. In addition, this work enhances the understanding of the concept of alignment between task and organizational structure and provides evidence of the impact of this alignment on innovation. Moreover, this study aims to resolve the prevailing poor fit between innovation practice and theory by adopting, empirically, effectiveness and efficiency views of innovation. A sample from 140 R&D teams from a large organization in the automotive industry was analyzed and multiple additional data triangulations and robustness checks were conducted. The findings reveal that organizations must carefully consider the different, even opposite effects of standardization and reconfiguration on innovation and find an optimum balance. In particular, it is crucial to understand what areas of the product and organization, managers need to pay particular attention to cope with the impact of misalignments, identifying critical design interfaces, ensure the most effective team setting and promote innovation.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Departments: Cass Business School
Cass Business School > Management
Doctoral Theses
Doctoral Theses > Cass
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/22021
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