Campus Units

Industrial Design

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Version

Published Version

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

2014 ASEE Annual Conference

Conference Title

2014 ASEE Annual Conference

Conference Date

June 15-18, 2014




Investigating Impacts on the Ideation Flexibility of Engineers Ideation is a critical skill for all engineers as they explore problem spaces and develop both short-term and long-term solutions. Engineers can benefit from understanding their preferred ideation approaches (based on their cognitive style, as defined by Kirton’s Adaption-Innovation theory) and the situations in which those approaches are effective. Engineers can also benefit from developing proficiency in a diversity of approaches in order to ideate effectively in avariety of problem situations. However, the current engineering education paradigm does not provide distinct opportunities for engineering students to understand their natural approaches to ideation or to learn how to deliberately approach idea generation in other ways.We define ideation flexibility as the ability to ideate along a continuum of incremental to radical ways depending on the needs of the problem. Based on previous research, we expect three key factors to influence ideation flexibility: 1) problem framing (the way a problem and its constraints are “set”); 2) the use of ideation tools (strategies that guide and inspire solution space exploration, e.g., Design Heuristics); and 3) ideation teaming (interactions with others during ideation).In this paper, we focus on the development of a sustainable foundation for our investigation of these three factors. Currently, we have collected data from pre-engineering and engineering undergraduate students at multiple levels in their educational programs using experimental studies to determine how each factor impacts students’ natural ideation tendencies. We present our vision for this foundation and illustrate some of our preliminary findings through case studies. Our long-term project goals include creating guidelines and methods that will help engineers increase their ideation flexibility by learning how to deliberately approach ideation differently.


This is a proceedings from 2014 ASEE Annual Conference, June 15-18, 2014. Posted with permission.


© 2014 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference

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American Society for Engineering Education



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