Methodological Advancements of Cross-Cultural User-Centered Product Development

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Bjrn Braun
 

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Executive Summary
Product development with end-user integration is not an end in itself but a logical necessity due to divergent types of knowledge of the user and the developer of a product. While
the user is an expert in regard to the product’s usage the developer is an expert in the product’s construction and functioning.
For the development of high-end products both types of expertises were a prerequisite at all times.
The efficient and throughout integration of the user’s perspective into existing product development approaches is the core of user-centred product development. Activities that are the basic ingredient of just any user-centred development approach can be roughly categorized into analysis, design and
evaluation activities. Research and practice prove the early integration of real end-users within those activities to add significant and sustainable value to product innovation. The instrumental, methodological and procedural impact of globalization tendencies, on modern user-centred product development in particular, is the primary research focus of the field of cross-cultural user-centred
product development.
This research aims at the further advancement of the methodological foundations of cross-cultural user centred product development approaches based on a stabile and profound theoretical basis. Primary research objects are established user-analysis methodologies, which are mainly based on Western concepts and theories, and their applicability in disparate cultural contexts of the Far East (China and Korea in particular).
For facilitating the adaptation of abstract method characteristics to the situational context of method application as foundation of cross-cultural methodological advancement, a model of method localization was developed. In alignment with internationalization and localization activities within product development processes, a framework for localizing user-centred methodologies was developed. Equivalent to internationalization activities of real product development, the abstraction of method traits from specific methodologies is a necessity in a first step. Methodological adaptation with the primary objective of optimizing situational application of a methodology is to be done in a second
step – the step of method-localization.
This model of method localization and its underlying theories and principles were tested within an extensive empirical study in Germany, China and Korea. Within this study the applicability of six distinct user-centred product development methodologies, each with its very own profile of abstract
method traits, was tested with 248 participants in total. Results clearly back the basic hypothesis of method-localization, i.e. that the application of a user-centred methodology rises and falls with the alignment of its characteristic traits with the cross-cultural application context. Beyond, applicabilityinfluencing
factors identified within this study could be proven to be valid indicators of adaptationnecessities and –potentials of user-centred product development methodologies.
 

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