Improving Creativity Training: A Study of Designer Skills

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    Creativity is widely accepted to be a crucial element in design, and design has traditionally been a popular domain for creativity studies. Moreover, creativity has repeatedly been shown to be an important element for design and innovation e. g. [Christiaans 1992], [Amabile et al. 1996], [Dorst and Cross2001]. Establishing that creativity is important for design and innovation implies that identifying ways of improving creativity is a relevant research area within design studies. Creativity is a basic human skill and multiple studies have been published showing that creativity is a skill that can be trained (see e.g.[Scott et al. 2004] for a review of these). Despite establishing that creativity training works, it is though not yet clear how individual creativity skills can influence the creative process, although many studieshave been published on different types of creativity training formats e.g. [Scott et al. 2004], [Robbinsand Kegley 2010]. The aim of this study was therefore to investigate how individual creativity skills influence the creative process of design teams working within the fuzzy front end (as defined in [Koenet al. 2002]) of innovation; an important first step in identifying which individual creativity skills shouldbe trained in designers. An exploratory study was designed, using participatory observation of two design teams in a six-month case study in two major organizations, with individual skills being the unit of analysis. The focus of the study was to observe the process the teams operated within and its progresswhen individuals applied their creativity skills to advance its progress, while the intent was not to assessthe creative product or output as such.Design is a collaborative effort and creativity has to be understood both on an individual and on a team level. In creativity research, the ‘standard definition of creativity’ [Runco and Jaeger 2012] defines creativity as the production of something new and appropriate for a specific context, thus bringing value to its prospective users [Stein 1953]. Onarheim and Friis-Olivarius [2013] suggest that ‘new’ is related to divergent thinking, the process of coming up with multiple solutions, while ‘appropriate’ coincides with convergent thinking, the process of taking those multiple ideas and converging them into anappropriate solution. Divergent thinking is here considered somewhat a ‘solo sport’, as producing ideasis often considered as a cognitive individual task [Onarheim 2011], whereas convergent thinking couldbe thought of as a ‘team sport’ – teams are good at selecting ideas and are likelier to successfullycomplete the task [Singh and Fleming 2010]. Thus, creativity training for designers should not only be directed at the individual level by enhancing individual creativity skills, but also improvement at the team level, rendering it important to first improve the understanding of both these levels of creativity in the design process.There are multiple ways to train creativity, although currently most creativity training is directed at enhancing individual creativity skills, usually measured through the ability to generate ideas, i.e.divergent thinking [Guilford 1959]. However, as individually focused as creativity training might seem, DESIGN INNOVATION 1175Scott et al. [2004] concluded that the most optimal way of training creativity is through a combination of (1) educating individuals about creativity, thereby building a solid theoretical understanding, and (2) providing them with a real world case where they are trained in the use of creative tools and processes[Scott et al. 2004]. The latter point has great implications for creativity training for designers, as in the real world designers rarely work in a void but in teams and thus the team interactions should be takeninto account in creativity training for designers. Here we understand the team as an entity, independent from, yet influenced by the organization, however largely dependent on individuals; the individuals that make up the team (following [Woodman et al. 1993]). With that in mind the current study was designedto investigate individuals and how they operate in teams, thus focusing both on the individual level as well as the team level and their respective importance and contribution to the creative process of design teams.In the following chapters a theoretical overview is first provided about the individual- and team level in regards to creativity literature. Next, a description of the case study and the methods deployed in thecontext of the case study is given. Chapter four contains the findings of the study and chapter five provides a discussion and subsequent conclusions drawn from the
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publication14th International Design Conference - Design 2016
    PublisherDesign Society
    Publication date2016
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    Event14th International Design Conference - Dubrovnik, Croatia
    Duration: 16 May 201619 May 2016
    Conference number: 14


    Conference14th International Design Conference
    Internet address


    • Creativity
    • Creativity training
    • Creative process
    • Design creativity
    • Designer skills

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