Art and R&D: a conceptual approach on how art can support the product development process

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“Technology is more closely related to art than to science – not only materially, because art must somehow involve the selection and manipulation of matter, but conceptually as well, because the technologist, like the artist, must work with many unanalysable complexities” (Smith, 1981).

At a first glance, the product development process and the process of creating art are very similar to each other. Both aim at creating something new and often unique. Despite this similarity, they highly differ in their objectives and their motivation. R&D processes aim at the development of products or processes which are commercially successful. Art is more focused on the individual expression of its creator.

During the last decade, R&D and especially product development got significantly more management attention. Making the right choices in the early phases of product development has become as important as using resources efficiently during all phases of product development. We also know that the availability of information and the amount of creativity preliminary to detailed product or process design are highly influential for the success of the later phases in the product lifecycle. The interdisciplinary integration of art and R&D has the potential to create both, more groundbreaking and out-of-the-box solutions and more efficient and effective R&D processes. However, there is only little insight available on potential interfaces between these disciplines and on how they can be best applied in business environments.

To enable the theoretic analysis of the potential usage of art in R&D and more specifically in the product development process, this paper is structured from a process perspective into input, process support and finally outcome. Based on this perspective, the usage of art in the product development process is analysed and described in more detail in the following chapters. For a better understanding, the starting point for this analysis is the introduction of some definitions related to art and R&D.

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