Ideation flexibility is the ability to shift between a designer’s preferred and non-preferred ways of generating solutions as required by the presented task. There are many tools that exist to support ideation; however, there is a lack of research defining how to facilitate ideation flexibility and how to support designers in this process through use of such tools. In this paper, we report on the development of a new tool, the "Incremental to Radical Heuristics" (I2Rh), which may provide inspiring prompts for ideation, ranging from more incremental to more radical examples. We tested the use of this I2Rh with a small set of industrial design and architecture students and aim to report on ways in which designers with varying cognitive styles perceive and apply these heuristics and further the impact of the heuristics on the students’ problem solving processes and ideation outcomes. Preliminary results demonstrate that more innovative students found the adaptive applications of the heuristics to trigger more novel solutions, whereas the more adaptive students found that the innovative applications to be more inspiring.
Ideation is critical as it allows designers to form many diverse ideas to choose from and eventually test and validate them (Sheppard, Macatangay et al. 2009). However, in many cases, designers find it difficult to come up with many diverse ideas as a result of fixation they experience on particular ideas (Crilly 2015). Being a flexible designer means being able to move from one solution to another, in order to produce the most promising solutions for the given context. In this movement, idea generation methods play a critical role as facilitators of this movement while pushing designers to think differently (Silk, Daly et al. 2014). The focus of the proposed work is ideation flexibility (Yilmaz, Daly et al. 2014), defined as the ability to ideate in both incremental and radical ways – or, more precisely, to ideate along a continuum of thinking between the two, depending on the needs of the problem. Building on the theoretical foundation of Kirton’s adaption-innovation theory (Kirton 1976), we defined the ideation success as a designer’s ability to move between his/her preferred and nonpreferred ways of generating ideas as required in the design brief. To specifically target ideation flexibility, we took an empirically-driven and validated ideation tool, Design Heuristics (Yilmaz, Seifert et al. 2016), and modified it based on the Kirton’s adaptiveinnovative theory. This revised set, called the "Incremental to Radical Heuristics" (I2Rh), illustrates heuristics’ application both incrementally and radically to the same example design problem. I2Rh is intended to help designers execute an ideation strategy based on prompts, examples, and directions to incorporate more incremental or more radical changes to their naturally preferred ways of generating ideas, through facilitating flexible thinking. Our goal in this paper was to investigate how designers with different cognitive styles perceive and apply these revised heuristics and their impact on the students’ ideation outcomes.