Publication Date


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Business Administration, Management, and Operations | Technology and Innovation

Publication Title

Creativity and Innovation Management


Prototypes play a powerful role in facilitating the work of multidisciplinary innovation teams, but if not properly managed, they may inhibit innovation processes. This paper inquires into the tensions that exist around the use of prototypes in multidisciplinary teams. We studied the relationship between work identities (related to teams and subgroups within teams) and prototypes with a field study of a multidisciplinary team in an emergency department, in charge of redesigning the layout of the unit. Results show that different values of subgroup identities are reflected in the solutions devised by the team. These values become salient through the prototype; that is, the prototype is an identity marker, especially when it is characterized by higher tangibility, fidelity and validity. When the prototype is an identity marker, it sparks conflict within the team. We also find that a superordinate team identity can help in solving conflictual interactions. Our analysis contributes to revealing how prototypes as identity markers can both inhibit and facilitate the innovation process of multidisciplinary teams. We offer theoretical and practical implications for managers, team members and designers working in multidisciplinary teams.


multidisciplinary teams, prototype fidelity, prototype tangibility, prototype validity, prototypes, subgroups, team identity, work identity


This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Dosi, C, Mattarelli, E, Vignoli, M. Prototypes as identity markers: The double-edged role of prototypes in multidisciplinary innovation teams. Creativity and Innovation Management. 2020; 29: 648– 666, which has been published in final form at: This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.