Helping Teams Expand the Breadth of Their Solution Space Through Product Dissection: A Simulation Based Investigation

M. Alzayed, C. McComb, S. Hunter, and S. Miller

2018, ASME 2018 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference

Product dissection has been highlighted as an effective means of interacting with example products in order to produce creative outcomes. While product dissection is often conducted as a team in engineering design education as a component of larger engineering design projects (e.g. cornerstone and capstone design), the research on the effectiveness of product dissection activities has been primarily limited to individuals. Thus, the goal of this study was to investigate the impact of the type(s) of product dissected in a team environment on the breadth of the design space explored and the underlying influence of educational level on these effects. This was accomplished through a computational simulation of 7,000 nominal brainstorming teams composed of four team members based on a design repository of 463 ideas generated by first-year and senior engineering design students after a product dissection activity. The results of the study highlight that simulated senior engineering design teams explored a larger solution space than first-year teams and that dissecting different types of products allowed for the exploration of a larger solution space for all of the simulated teams. The results also showed that dissecting two analogically far products and two simple products was most effective in expanding the solution space of simulated senior engineering design teams, but this was not necessarily the case for first-year teams. The findings presented in this study can lead to a better understanding of how to most effectively deploy product dissection modules in engineering design education in order to maximize the solution space explored by nominal brainstorming teams.