The importance of cross-functional teamwork and social network in NPD

Beverland, M., Micheli, P. and Farrelly, F. (2016). Resourceful Sensemaking: Overcoming Barriers between Marketing and Design in NPD. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 33(5), pp.628-648.

Leenders, R. and Dolfsma, W. (2015). Social Networks for Innovation and New Product Development. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 33(2), pp.123-131.



The two articles emphasize the importance of cross-functional teamwork and social networks in new product success. According to Leenders and Dolfsma (2016), social networks are divided into 4 levels, including intraorganizational networks, crossing organizational boundary network, inter-organizational networks and networks that reside outside of the firm. While another article analyses the solution of overcome barriers in cross-functional teamwork by investigating the perspectives between designers and marketers (Beverland et al., 2016).

The barriers in cross-functional teamwork

One of the biggest barriers that Michael et al. discussed is the communication barrier. Since different role has different knowledge and speciality, it may be difficult for each role to understand so that would cause conflict. To overcome such barrier,Beverland (2016) come up with 3 ideas of resourceful sensemaking, namely exposing, co-optioning and repurposing.

Besides, the conflict will have occurred if the team members have different goal and priority. Since different functions would like to complete their own local goal first and then finish other mission, which may lead to little improvement for the entire project (Millard, 2015). What’s more, as each function has its own leader, the equal role would also cause the conflict (Quick base, 2015). Therefore, in order to achieve the common goal, it is vital for the team to have a leader that can not only take charge of the whole project but also can play a coordinating role (Sarin, 2003).

Furthermore, there is an article that comprehensively analyses the critical success factors for cross-functional teamwork which is worth reading (see fig.1.).

Figure 1: the critical success factors for cross-functional teamwork

(Adapted from Holland, 2000)

The opportunity in cross-functional teamwork

Good cross-functional teamwork can be more productive which increases the speed and quality of the design process. For example, the success of Zara can be contributed to efficient cross-functional teamwork. In Zara’s business model, store managers responsible for gathering customers data and provide the information to the headquarters, where designers, marketers and production planners work together to analyze the trends and customers’ need (Busk, 2014). In this way, Zara can be able to respond quickly within the production process, so as to provide clothes that meet current fashion trend and customers need.

Besides, cross-functional teamwork can improve integration and coordination (Inc, n.d). The MFP project also can be seen as a cross-functional teamwork, which involves different functions such as product manager, designer, buyer, production manager etc. Each role needs to communicate with others when conducting the project. For instance, the buyer needs to discuss fashion trends and product details with the designer while at the meantime buyer needs to team up with merchandiser to conduct range plan. And if there is a conflict, the project manager needs to consider the whole situation and find the balance of each function. By gathering ideas from different functions, the entire project can be viewed in a comprehensive way so as to lead to a successful product development.

The importance of social networks in NPD

As Leenders and Dolfsma (2016) claimed that there is no possibility for an individual that work isolated. One must have a connection with other people in the development of products. The cross-functional teamwork that mentioned above can be regarded as a kind of social network. Besides, the collaboration between two fashion brands can be seen as another kind of social network. Through the interfirm network, companies can gain mutual benefit and strengthen the business. In particular, the social network is vital for those emerging brands which lack financial support and experience. There is a Sydney-based company named Collabosaurus that alliances brands to share the cost and reach wider customers. The collaboration enables niche brands to increase brand awareness so as to gain more customers (Sampson, 2016).

In addition, by working with other companies that share the same goal can help to stimulate inspiration and creativity in product development. New ideas would be leverage and can bring fresh air into product development. Besides, the successful fashion collaborations would always bring hypes and thus increase sales. For example, Uniqlo teamed up with JW Anderson these two seasons to provide new product design, which attracts public attention. The products are sold immediately due to the high promotion (BOF, 2018).

Furthermore, the inter-organizational networks can also help the company to gain complementary resources. In China, there are many clothing wholesale centres, which includes multiple producers. Take Pinghu international trade clothing wholesale centre as an example, it integrates design, fabric supply, production, quality control together, which has more than 3000 producers that export garment to other countries (Learn More China, 2013). The supply chain is integrated, the companies in the wholesale centre can work together and can combine the business together.



Buck, T. (2014) Fashion: A better business model. Available at: Accessed by: 1 May 2018)

Business of Fashion (2018) Uniqlo partners with J.W. Anderson. Available at: (Accessed by: 6 May 2018)

Holland, S., Gaston, K. and Gomes, J. (2000). Critical success factors for cross-functional teamwork in new product development. International Journal of Management Reviews, 2(3), pp.231-259.

Inc (n.d.) Cross-functional team. Available at: (Accessed by: 2 May 2018)

Learn More China (2013) Jiaxing Pinghu Huiteng international trade clothing wholesale center. Available at: (Accessed by: 6 May 2018)

Quick base (2015) Overcoming 5 obstacles cross-functional teams face. Available at: (Accessed by: 6 May 2018)

Millard, M (2015) How to overcome 3 common barriers to cross functional collaboration. Available at: (Accessed by: 2 May 2018)

Sampson, C. (2016) Collaborative creativity: Why the fashion world is working together. Available at: (Accessed by: 6 May 2018)

Sarin, S. and McDermott, C. (2003). The Effect of Team Leader Characteristics on Learning, Knowledge Application, and Performance of Cross-Functional New Product Development Teams. Decision Sciences, 34(4), pp.707-739.



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One Comment

  1. Posted 19th May 2018 at 2:18 am | Permalink

    I quite liked that you mentioned companies who share the same goal can help each other to achieve success, inspire each other and creativity in product development. I believe this would be maybe two companies which have similar core values but operate in relatively different sectors or related. Stella McCartney and Adidas’s collaboration can be an example to this, their collections focus on decreasing the environmental impact but still creating unique designs with exceptional product capabilities.

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