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The role of Expertise in Design Fixation: Managerial Implications for Creative Leadership

Abstract : There are today large expectations towards creative thinking and innovation in both educational and industrial contexts. Creativity defined as the ability to think of something truly new (i.e., original, unexpected), and appropriate (i.e., useful, adaptive concerning task constraints) is considered as a crucial skill required in numerous organizations and is largely viewed as fundamental process for any innovation. Nevertheless, generating, evaluating and developing new ideas might not be as easy as it seems, and individuals often failed to propose creative solutions to a specific problem, focusing on a narrow scope of existing solutions. Decades of cognitive psychology studies has demonstrated that previously acquired and existing knowledge or ideas can limit creative ideation, leading a phenomena named " mental fixation " or " fixation effect ". Experimental studies with students converged in showing that the fixation effect is reinforced when adults are exposed to uncreative examples of solutions before being asked to generate new ideas. Although, considerable efforts have been devoted at identifying the negative influence of examples on creative ideas generation in experiments made on thousands of engineers' students, as well as novices from different disciplines, surprisingly there are to date few study that have examined whether examples may constrain (or facilitate) creative ideation in expert engineers or designers. Therefore, the present study aimed to clarify the potential role of expertise in creative idea generation. In this study, 64 expert engineers from a prestigious French Aerospatiale multinational were asked to design solutions to ensure that a hen's egg dropped from a height of ten meters does not break (the egg task). The participants were randomly assigned to one of two experimental conditions (a control condition without an example or a test condition with an uncreative example) and were given ten minutes to solve the egg task. The problems were identical across conditions, except that the group with an example read the following: " One solution classically given is to slow the fall with a parachute ". Our results show that expert engineers were able to overcome design fixation, and interestingly they provided more solutions within the expansion path and fewer solution within the fixation path when they were given an uncreative example. As such, our results expand the understandings of the critical characteristics of expertise for overcoming cognitive biases to creativity, and give new sights to managerial implications for the role of creative leaders in this concern, more specifically when managing innovative processes with team members having varying levels of expertise.
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Contributor : Hicham Ezzat <>
Submitted on : Monday, October 30, 2017 - 1:49:44 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 3:52:28 AM
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Camarda, Ezzat, Cassotti, Agog...
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  • HAL Id : halshs-01626164, version 1


Anaëlle Camarda, Hicham Ezzat, Mathieu Cassotti, Marine Agogué, Benoit Weil, et al.. The role of Expertise in Design Fixation: Managerial Implications for Creative Leadership. The 24th Innovation and Product Development Management Conference, Jun 2017, Reykjavik, Iceland. ⟨halshs-01626164⟩



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