Diversity in Design Teams: An Investigation of Learning Styles and their Impact on Team Performance and Innovation

Kimberly Lau
Department of Mechanical Engineering
University of California at Berkeley Berkeley, CA 94709-1742
Email: lauk@berkeley.edu

Alice M. Agogino
Department of Mechanical Engineering
University of California at Berkeley Berkeley, CA 94709-1742
Email: agogino@berkeley.edu

Sara L. Beckman
Haas School of Business
University of California at Berkeley Berkeley, CA 94709-1742
Email: beckman@haas.berkeley.edu

Abstract
In this paper, we examine the role of diversity in design team performance, and discuss how diversity factors affect the dynamics and success of a design team. In particular, we focus on diversity in learning styles, as defined by Kolb’s Experiential Learning Theory. We also consider other demographic factors, such as discipline and gender.
We present data gathered over two semesters of a multidisciplinary, project-based graduate level design course offered at the University of California at Berkeley. The data were captured through a series of surveys administered during the semester, first to collect diversity information on learning styles and standard demographics, and then to assess team performance as students reflected on their team interactions. We examine and compare the overall learning style breakdown of students in the class, along with an analysis of the teams. The results of our analyses offer insights into how students with different learning styles appear to contribute to design team performance. We provide recommendations that will help inform design educators on how to enhance overall team performance and innovation, with an understanding of learning style differences.

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