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On the benefits and pitfalls of analogies for innovative design: Ideation performance based on analogical distance, commonness, and modality of examples

Chan, J and Fu, K and Schunn, C and Cagan, J and Wood, K and Kotovsky, K (2011) On the benefits and pitfalls of analogies for innovative design: Ideation performance based on analogical distance, commonness, and modality of examples. Journal of Mechanical Design, Transactions of the ASME, 133 (8). ISSN 1050-0472

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Drawing inspiration from examples by analogy can be a powerful tool for innovative design during conceptual ideation but also carries the risk of negative design outcomes (e.g., design fixation), depending on key properties of examples. Understanding these properties is critical for effectively harnessing the power of analogy. The current research explores how variations in analogical distance, commonness, and representation modality influence the effects of examples on conceptual ideation. Senior-level engineering students generated solution concepts for an engineering design problem with or without provided examples drawn from the U.S. Patent database. Examples were crossed by analogical distance (near-field vs. far-field), commonness (more vs. less-common), and modality (picture vs. text). A control group that received no examples was included for comparison. Effects were examined on a mixture of ideation process and product variables. Our results show positive effects of far-field and less-common examples on novelty and variability in quality of solution concepts. These effects are not modulated by modality. However, detailed analyses of process variables suggest divergent inspiration pathways for far-field vs. less-common examples. Additionally, the combination of far-field, less-common examples resulted in more novel concepts than in the control group. These findings suggest guidelines for the effective design and implementation of design-by-analogy methods, particularly a focus on far-field, less-common examples during the ideation process. © 2011 American Society of Mechanical Engineers.


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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Chan, J
Fu, K
Schunn, Cschunn@pitt.eduSCHUNN0000-0003-3589-297X
Cagan, J
Wood, K
Kotovsky, K
Centers: Other Centers, Institutes, Offices, or Units > Learning Research & Development Center
Date: 12 August 2011
Date Type: Publication
Journal or Publication Title: Journal of Mechanical Design, Transactions of the ASME
Volume: 133
Number: 8
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1115/1.4004396
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 1050-0472
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2014 18:09
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2019 15:56


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