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What Problem Are We Solving? Encouraging Idea Generation and Effective Team Communication

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Idea generation has frequently been explored in design education as an exercise of students’ “innate” creativity, and few tools or techniques are offered to scaffold ideation ability. As students develop their design skills, we expect them to demonstrate increasing ideation flexibility—a cognitive and social ability to see a problem from multiple perspectives, and to create more varied concepts within the problem space. In this study, we introduced three tools— functional decomposition, Design Heuristics, and affinity diagramming—to aid students’ ideation in a three-hour workshop. Participants included 20 students in a junior industrial design studio arranged in five pre-existing teams. These participants first decomposed the functions within an existing set of concepts they had generated, then selected a specific function and generated additional concepts using the Design Heuristics ideation method. Finally, teams organized these concepts using affinity diagramming to find patterns and additional concepts. Our findings suggest that this process encouraged students to try multiple ways of examining the existing problem space, resulting in a broadened set of final concepts. More striking, the instructional activities served to foreground differences in team members’ understanding of the problem they were addressing, fostering alignment of their problem statement and aiding in its further development.

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What Problem Are We Solving? Encouraging Idea Generation and Effective Team Communication

  1. 1. What Problem 
 Are We Solving? ENCOURAGING IDEA GENERATION & EFFECTIVE TEAM COMMUNICATION Colin M. Gray1 , Seda Yilmaz1 , Shanna R. Daly2 ,
 Colleen M. Seifert2 , & Richard Gonzalez2 1 IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY 
 2 UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
  2. 2. COMMUNICATION, DIALOGUE, & NEGOTIATION [Cross, 2007; Dorst, 2015; Goel & Pirolli, 1989; Paton & Dorst, 2011; Schön, 1990]
  3. 3. COMMUNICATION, DIALOGUE, & NEGOTIATION of a problem frame [Cross & Cross, 1996; Hey, Joyce, & Beckman, 2007; Stumpf & McDonnell, 2002]
  4. 4. COMMUNICATION, DIALOGUE, & NEGOTIATION of a desiderata [Nelson & Stolterman, 2012]
  5. 5. COMMUNICATION, DIALOGUE, & NEGOTIATION through dialectic of problem & solution [Dorst & Cross, 2001; Maher & Tang, 2003]
  6. 6. SUPPORTING DESIGN METHODS FUNCTIONAL DECOMPOSITION DESIGN 
 HEURISTICS AFFINITY 
 DIAGRAMMING [van Eyk, 2011; Umeda & Tomiyama, 1997] [Christian et al., 2012; Daly et al., 2012; Yilmaz & Seifert, 2010; Yilmaz et al., 2010, 2014] [Hanington & Martin, 2012; Kawakita, 1975]
  7. 7. DESIGN HEURISTICS
  8. 8. DESIGN HEURISTICS Provides prompts to help designers generate alternatives that vary in nature, discouraging fixation and encouraging divergent patterns of thinking [Yilmaz, Daly, Seifert, & Gonzalez, 2011; Yilmaz, Seifert, & Gonzalez, 2010] Derived from empirical evidence of industrial and engineering designs [Daly et al., 2012; Yilmaz, Christian, Daly, Seifert, & Gonzalez, 2012; 
 Yilmaz & Seifert, 2010] Validated through a range of product analysis, case studies, and protocol analyses, in both educational and professional contexts [e.g., Yilmaz & Seifert, 2009; Yilmaz et al., 2011; Yilmaz et al., 2010; Yilmaz et al., 2013; Yilmaz, Daly, Christian, Seifert, & Gonzalez, 2014]
  9. 9. METHOD • 20 junior-level undergraduate industrial design students • Previously organized into teams of 4-5 students • Three-hour class session in the fourth week of the semester • Case analysis of participants and teams
  10. 10. DESIGN PROJECT “ ” Develop an innovative kitchen product related to rising food costs, the future of food, or the unique needs of millennials
  11. 11. DESIGN PROJECT “ ” Develop an innovative kitchen product related to rising food costs, the future of food, or the unique needs of millennials INDIVIDUAL LADDERED PROBLEM STATEMENTS GROUP PROBLEM STATEMENT 15 MARKER COMPS FIRST FOUR WEEKS
  12. 12. DESIGN PROJECT INDIVIDUAL LADDERED PROBLEM STATEMENTS GROUP PROBLEM STATEMENT 15 MARKER COMPS FIRST FOUR WEEKS INDIVIDUAL FUNCTIONAL DECOMPOSITION IDEATION, ITERATION, RECOMPOSITION 60 MINUTES
  13. 13. DESIGN PROJECT INDIVIDUAL LADDERED PROBLEM STATEMENTS GROUP PROBLEM STATEMENT 15 MARKER COMPS FIRST FOUR WEEKS INDIVIDUAL FUNCTIONAL DECOMPOSITION IDEATION, ITERATION, RECOMPOSITION 60 MINUTES TEAM AFFINITY 
 DIAGRAMMING ITERATION 60 MINUTES
  14. 14. Team Initial Team 
 Problem Statement Individual Functions After Functional Decomposition Team Concept Clusters 
 After Affinity Diagramming Team End-of-
 Semester Problem Statement 1 System-based solution to improve upon portion control, food preservation, & waste Compartmentalization Ease of Access Space saving [N/A] Accessibility (n=4) Adjustable Dividers (n=5) Exterior Adjustability/Space Saving (n=8) Interior Adjustability (n=12) How can we create a system that discourages millennials from throwing away food at home? 5 Develop a system, which will re-invent the perception of 'on the go eating' that conforms to the lifestyles & eating habits of health- conscious millennials. Give user experience Emotional Cleaning Versatility Customizable 
 Container (n=3); Lid (n=6); Other (n=4) Flexible 
 Cleaning Mechanisms (n=5); Storage Mechanisms (n=7) Experience 
 Consumption (n=6); Storage (n=6) Promote an experience that accommodates eating habits which reflect the diverse lifestyles of the out and about millennial.
  15. 15. TEAM 1 TEAM 5
  16. 16. TEAM 1 TEAM 5
  17. 17. TEAM 1 Expand or collapse 32 Allow the volume or area of the product or its parts to get larger or smaller. Consider the use of fluids, inflatables, flexible materials, and complex joints. This can improve portability and storage options, and allow adjustability. © Design Heuristics, LLC 2012
  18. 18. TEAM 1 Apply existing mechanism in new way 13 Consider whether existing products or their components can fulfill the desired function.This can facilitate reuse of existing products, make the design process more efficient, and expand the pool of options. © Design Heuristics, LLC 2012
  19. 19. TEAM 5 Provide sensory feedback 50 Return perceptual (e.g., tactile, aural, visual) feedback to the user to guide use. This can reduce errors, confirm actions, and inform the user of the product’s function. © Design Heuristics, LLC 2012 TEAM 1
  20. 20. Cluster Name
 (# using Design Heuristics) P17 P18 P19 P20 TOTAL Flexible Storage mechanisms (n=5) 1 3 2 1 7 Cleaning mechanisms (n=5) 5 5 Customizable Container (n=2) 1 2 3 Lid (n=6) 2 2 2 6 Other (n=4) 1 2 1 4 Experience Consumption (n=5) 6 6 Storage (n=5) 3 1 1 1 6 Unassigned (n=6) 4 1 1 3 9 Cluster Name
 (# using Design Heuristics) P1 P2 P3 P4 TOTAL Space saving/ Exterior adjustability (n=6) 3 1 2 2 8 Interior adjustability (n=10) 7 2 1 12 Adjustable dividers (n=4) 5 5 Accessibility (n=4) 1 3 4 Unassigned (n=4) 1 4 1 3 9 TEAM 1 TEAM 5
  21. 21. TEAM 1 TEAM 5
  22. 22. ALIGNMENT OF PROBLEM FRAMES TEAM 1 TEAM 5 Development of 
 isolated clusters Divergence provoked discussion about lack of team focus MISALIGNED Development of complementary clusters Divergence reinforced focus through differing perspectives ALIGNED
  23. 23. IDEA GENERATION 
 THAT STIMULATES A 
 DIALECTIC MOVEMENT BETWEEN DIVERGENCE & CONVERGENCE
  24. 24. PROBLEM SPACE INITIAL PROBLEM FRAMING FUNCTIONAL DECOMPOSITION AFFINITY DIAGRAMMING CONCEPT GENERATION (TEAM) CONCEPT GENERATION (TEAM) CONCEPT GENERATION (INDIVIDUAL) DESIGN HEURISTICS DIALECTIC OF DIVERGENCE & CONVERGENCE
  25. 25. Thank You COLINGRAY.ME DESIGNHEURISTICS.COM This research is funded by the National Science Foundation, Division of Undergraduate Education, Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (TUES Type II) Grants # 1323251 and #1322552.

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