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Collaborating and knowledge-sharing in heterogenous expert teams: Research within the Extended Product Lifecycle Management (E-PLM) project 2.0

Description project

In the E-PLM 2.0 initiative, Dutch organizations of different sizes, industries, and maturities collaborate to improve the life cycle management of their products and services. Multiple heterogenous teams have been formed, comprising members from different organizations and functional backgrounds, to work on self-chosen question, problems, and solutions. Collaborating and sharing knowledge across and around members’ differences bears potential benefits as strengthened creative and innovative capacities, cross-fertilization of ideas, and opportunities for learning and development. At the same time, though, member differences can impede the creation of shared understandings and goals and can complicate communication and coordination as team members do not speak the same professional language: interests and attention points diverge, the same processes or things are given different names, ideas, opinions, and working styles are characterized by differing organizational backgrounds and experiences, etc. Taking a qualitative, micro-level approach, we study how heterogenous teams successfully collaborate, share and create knowledge, and make sense of their teamwork—but also what keeps them from doing so. For example, one of our research questions aims to determine the role objects play in facilitating or hindering collaboration.

Expected outcomes

We aim to gain better insight into collaboration and knowledge-sharing processes that are characterized by diversity, thereby supporting the full exploitation of heterogeneous teams’ potentials. In contrast to much previous work, we study teams’ processes at the everyday level, that is, we zoom into teams’ real, and social interactions. To do so, we mobilize ethnographic approaches to data collection, including meeting observations/recordings and interviews, and link the theories of boundary-crossing and organization as communication (also referred to as CCO). In addition to providing in-depth understanding of teams’ processes, our insights serve as baseline for the development of a practical tool that teams can use in the accomplishment of their joint work.

involved researchers

Ellen Nathues, Msc.

Dr. Mireille Hubers

Dr. Maaike Endedijk

Prof. dr. Ton de Jong

Contact Persons

Dr. Mireille Hubers -

Duration of the project

Official project: October 2017 – September 2020
Research: January 2018 – January 2022

Funding & partners

A total of 23 partners collaborate in this project: