Innovative Solutions through Innovated Problems
Designers are accustomed to solving problems that are provided to them; in fact, common practice in engineering is to present the problem with carefully delineated and detailed constraints required for a promising solution. As a consequence, engineers focus on creating feasible solutions rather than exploring novel perspectives on the presented problems. However, the Engineer of 2020 needs to respond with innovations for multiple and dynamic user needs, diverse users and cultures, and rapidly changing technologies. These complex demands require engineering students to learn that problems are not ‘‘fixed’’ as presented, and to build the habit of exploring alternative perspectives on the stated problem. Creative innovations in problem understanding may lead directly to more innovative solutions. While previous research has documented the ‘‘co-evolution’’ of problem and solution during the design process, the present work aims to understand how designers intentionally explore variants of problems on the way to solutions. Summaries of two empirical studies provide initial evidence about how stated problems are altered within successful solutions in open design challenges, along with evidence of problem think aloud protocols. Analysis of qualitative changes in problem perspectives reveals systematic patterns, or cognitive ‘‘heuristics,’’ and these same patterns are evident as student engineers solve problems. By exploring diverse perspectives on a stated problem, engineers can incorporate innovations into both problems and solutions during the design process.
This article is published as Daly, S.R., McKilligan, S., Studer, J.A., Murray, J.K., Seifert, C.M., Innovative Solutions through Innovated Problems. International Journal of Engineering Education; 2018 Vol. 34, No. 2(B), pp. 695–707. Posted with permission.