Rolling with the Punches: An Examination of Team Performance in a Design Task Subject to Drastic Changes

McComb, C., Cagan, J., and Kotovsky, K.

2015, Design Studies, vol. 36, pp. 99-121

Designers must often create solutions to problems that exhibit dynamic characteristics. For instance, a client might modify specifications after design has commenced, or a competitor may introduce a new technology or feature. This paper presents a cognitive study that was conducted to explore the manner in which design teams respond to such situations. In the study, teams of undergraduate engineering students sought to solve a design task that was subject to two large, unexpected changes in problem formulation that were introduced during solving. High- and low-performing teams demonstrated very different approaches to solving the problem and overcoming the changes. The results indicate that there may exist a relationship between problem characteristics and fruitful solution strategies.