TOWARDS A THEORETICAL UNDERSTANDING OF CREATIVE CONCEPT SELECTION IN ENGINEERING DESIGN

Open Access
Author:
Toh, Christine
Graduate Program:
Industrial Engineering
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
June 06, 2016
Committee Members:
  • Scarlett Rae Miller, Dissertation Advisor
  • Scarlett Rae Miller, Committee Chair
  • Gul Kremer, Committee Member
  • Timothy William Simpson, Committee Member
  • Samuel Todd Hunter, Outside Member
Keywords:
  • Engineering Design
  • Creativity
  • Concept Selection
  • Engineering Education
  • Preferences for Creativity
  • Design Decision-Making
  • Decision-Making Biases
  • Psychometrics
Abstract:
There is a growing need for companies to generate innovative solutions and products in order to stay competitive in today’s constantly shifting engineering and technology landscape. Rapid changes in customer needs, emerging technologies, and new market opportunities demand quick and effective product design processes that can provide a competitive advantage. The focus on improving the effectiveness of the design process has led to renewed attention on studying and improving creativity training in engineering education. Since creative solutions contribute the most value to the design process, design educators are recognizing that students graduating engineering programs need to be trained for creativity prior to entering the workforce. While a large focus of creativity training in engineering education has been on helping students develop creative ideas, researchers have argued that the “availability of creative ideas is a necessary but insufficient condition for innovation”. This is because creative ideas are often filtered out during the design process because of people’s inadvertent bias against creativity. In other words, concept selection can now be seen as the “gatekeeper of creativity.” In addition, informal selection methods, often used in engineering industry, are subject to decision-making biases such as ownership bias and risk aversion. However, few studies have explored the impact of these factors on creative concept selection in engineering design education leaving it unclear exactly how these factors impact the design training of the next generation of design engineers. Therefore, the objective of this dissertation was to develop a theoretical understanding of the individual factors that impact creative concept selection processes in engineering design education. This was achieved through empirical studies with 427 engineering design students, spanning 3 research objectives: (1) an exploration of the decision-making process in informal student team concept selection practices, (2) a detailed investigation of the cognitive biases and personal attributes that influence team decision-making and creativity, and (3) identification of the underlying constructs that influence individual preferences for creative concepts and its influence on engineering student behavior. The results of this research contribute fundamental knowledge on the factors and elements that constitute preference for creativity in engineering student decision-making, allowing researchers to develop tools and methods that encourage creativity, improve innovation effectiveness, and increase the competitive advantage of the design process.