Economic competitiveness relies upon innovation and digitized tools, services and data representation. These innovations are required for organizations to remain effective. Designers and design managers guide the evolution of digitally enabled design capabilities by integrating different types of digital process capabilities and resources. Such capabilities can also help optimize complex systems (e.g., smart grid, pervasive healthcare). Building on organizational and evolutionary theory, this project studies changes in organizational processes as they incorporate innovative virtual elements. It applies a process modeling framework to explore underlying mechanisms that generate patterns of change, and uses computational tools in conjunction with theories of evolutionary genetics to analyze longitudinal changes in organizational processes for integrating virtualized innovations. Generative structural elements of design processes (e.g., genotypes) give birth to surface-level design routines and variations (e.g., phenotypes) over time. Processes are represented as sequences akin to biological genes and their translated protein products. while combinations of elements akin to DNA base pairs and their corresponding amino acids capture essential traits of design activity. This new vocabulary helps us delineate structurally the fundamental design task elements and their variation across design task instances.
The study advances theoretical understanding of how digital capabilities alter organizational processes. It shows how mutations emerge and how processes change over time. It identifies strategies for embedding digital capabilities into processes, and explores the impact of complexity. It advances instrumentation, methodology and analytical techniques by describing digitally-enabled processes and performing comparative, hierarchical, structural-analytical analyses of event-sequence-based process data. It provides longitudinal data on the micro- and meso-level changes in design processes from systematic studies of design for cars, chips and buildings. Genetics research is used to evaluate design in light of evolutionary models and agent-based simulations and to identify patterns of integration of digital capabilities into design processes over time.