DS 110: Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2021), VIA Design, VIA University in Herning, Denmark. 9th -10th September 2021

Year: 2021
Editor: Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik; Buck, Lyndon
Author: De Vos, Ellen (1,2); Baccarne, Bas (2); Emmanouil, Marina (1)
Series: E&PDE
Institution: 1: Research Group, Department of Industrial Systems Engineering and Product Design, Ghent University; 2: Research Group imec-mict-UGent, Department of Industrial Systems Engineering and Product Design, Ghent University, Belgium
Section: Innovation and Creativity in Design and Engineering Education
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2021.72
ISBN: 978-1-912254-14-9


A definition of creative problem-solving includes the production of original, high quality and elegant solutions, challenged by novel, complex, ill-defined, or poorly structured problems [1]. The focus of most creative techniques has traditionally been placed on the purpose of solving problems or generating ideas in the development of new services or products. Yet, while there is abundant knowledge and research on creative problem-solving, the process of finding and identifying problems themselves remains under-researched and fuzzy. Indeed, researchers, namely Wakefield (1985), have suggested early on that finding a problem is more important than solving it [2]. Identifying and forming problems, in that sense, becomes equally an important step in the problem-solving process, especially because a reason why creative problem-solving often fails is related to the problems’ nature [3]. For example, several creative techniques are only suitable when implemented in well-defined, straightforward situations, and not for solving complex, ill-structured design problems. Developing tools that can aid designers (and beyond) to identify different kinds of problems and better define them based on their characteristics, could provide a better understanding on what a problem is in the fuzzy front-end of the design process, and eventually, how to best tackle it later on. Drawn from research on creativity studies and design, this study offers an insight into the development of a problem-finding tool. This tool is in the form of a 2-d text template in which 15 input fields are been displayed that concern issues such as motivation, capabilities and resources, as well as, potential errors, scope for change or previous experience. The context in which this template has been implemented is a 3rd-year engineering design course that partly prepare students for choosing their master's research. Current students and alumni of this study programme have been contacted to participate in a qualitative online survey. By means of screen- and voice recordings, we got insights in how the tool is used and the spontaneous understanding of forty-two participants. Lastly, an online evaluation survey on the usefulness of the tool and its impact on their problem finding satisfaction, was administered. By sharing our findings on the template creation and user feedback in the context of engineering design education, we hope to further support the increased attention that is currently given again to the need of exploring problem finding as an essential phase in creative problem-solving. [1] M.D. Mumford and S.B. Gustafson, S.B., ‘Creative thought: Cognition and problem solving in a dynamic system’, In M.A. Runco (Ed.), Creativity research handbook, vol. 2, pp. 33–77, 2007, Cresskill, NJ: Hampton. [2] J.F. Wakefield, J. F., ‘Towards creativity: Problem finding in a divergent-thinking exercise,’ Child Study Journal, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 265–270, 1985. [3] N.J. Arreola, and R. Reiter-Palmon, ‘The effect of problem construction creativity on solution creativity across multiple everyday problems’, Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, vol. 10, pp. 287–295, 2016. doi: 10.1037/a0040389

Keywords: Design education, Creative problem-solving, Problem finding, Creativity, Tool


Please sign in to your account

This site uses cookies and other tracking technologies to assist with navigation and your ability to provide feedback, analyse your use of our products and services, assist with our promotional and marketing efforts, and provide content from third parties. Privacy Policy.