Theses Doctoral

Learning and Performance During Implementation of an Innovative Project: A Single Case Study of a Cross-Functional Team Within a Scientific Communications Agency

Robinson, Elizabeth

Today’s world of work, especially in highly specialized knowledge-based industries such as scientific communications, is increasingly complex. Leaders are challenged to drive growth through innovation. Cross-functional teams are challenged to bring innovative ideas to life. Despite a growing body of literature on team learning, current research does not extend to this highly specialized setting, especially around how innovation is implemented by cross-functional teams. The purpose of this qualitative single case study was to discover how one cross-functional innovation team within a scientific communications agency learns, performs, and contributes to team and organizational outcomes, specifically what learning conditions are present and what behaviors are adopted. The research revealed how team members characterized their experience of cross-functional innovation teaming; what the team members perceived to be the optimal organizational and team learning conditions; what kinds of behaviors team members adopted to optimize their learning and performance; and what types of learning outcomes the team achieved.

For cross-functional teams implementing innovative projects, conclusions were that: (1) successful implementation is facilitated by the organization’s approach to innovation, specifically their strategy and their support for cross-functional teams; (2) optimal learning conditions for the team are a shared aspirational vision, a climate of psychological safety, and innovation-responsive operating principles; (3) psychological safety and innovation-responsive operating principles facilitate innovation team behaviors of experimenting, crossing boundaries, and collaboration; (4) cross-functional innovation team leadership is emergent and may come from multiple sources based on the expertise of the team members and what leadership functions are most needed when; and (5) team outcomes include implementation of a new product, discovery of new ways of working, and team member satisfaction.

Knowing this helps to determine what team learning models and research are most relevant to innovation teams in this practice setting and what additional practices or supports might be helpful to guide these kinds of cross-functional innovation teams and their organizations to greater success.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Marsick, Victoria J.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 23, 2021