Understanding innovativeness by encapsulating creativity in higher engineering education

Year: 2009
Editor: Clarke, A, Ion, W, McMahon, C and Hogarth, P
Author: Berglund, Anders
Page(s): 376-381


Innovativeness implies willingness of individuals to support new ideas, creativity and experimentation with impact to change traditional practices. From past studies innovativeness has been brought forward in several dimensions (e.g. market, strategic and technological) [1]. This paper endeavor innovativeness from an academic perspective, viable in a context of product development driven courses (i.e. industry related project). Innovativeness is scarcely if all addressed in higher engineering education. In specific course elements it is difficult to find a red thread between creativity input and output. Perhaps, this is precisely the dilemma with creativity as it follows no given rule and thus not easily followed. Project output, the way things turns out, is often taken for granted as something part of a development process rather than something that need guidance and systematic support like most other elements involved. From academia a more systematic approach to perceive ideation phases is welcomed so that engineers are: 1) more acquainted with supporting methods for creativity, and 2) by integrate the use of such methods improve students' innovativeness, their individual innovation capability. The study covers a literature review of a dozen of the most cited and practiced idea generation (IG) methods. In addition, three case studies involving approximately 50 students in equally divided project groups is used to better understand and propose suitable IG methods to be used in higher engineering education. The author work with a large capstone design course Integrated Product Development (IPD), which have been used to retrieve useful data through interviews, archival records and observations. The IPD constitutes a way of working, an integrated perspective that is attained during the full year academic course. In the course plan, one of the objectives is to establish an increase in students' creative abilities. Research has shown that systematic approaches to creative thinking improve output quality, in terms of producing better final design projects [2][3]. To meet demands of a systematic approach idea generation methods is today considered essential in product development processes. In this paper several idea generating methods are presented together with their usefulness in engineering design projects conducted in close relation with industry. A comparison between several idea generation IG cases is looked upon to withdraw insights in how and what to look for when applying IG methods in project classes. Thus, the overall purpose of the paper is to investigate whether innovativeness by students can be derived from students' ways of using IG methods.

Keywords: Higher education, creativity, methods, idea generation, case studies, engineering project

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