Creativity from Constraints in Engineering Design

Lessons Learned at Coloplast

Balder Onarheim

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

This paper investigates the role of constraints in limiting and enhancing creativity in engineering design. Based on a review of literature relating constraints to creativity, the paper presents a longitudinal participatory study from Coloplast A/S, a major international producer of disposable medical equipment. At Coloplast, constraints played a fundamental role and the observations show the important, dual role of constraints in terms of being a limitation and a prerequisite for creativity. Too few or too many constraints had a negative impact on creativity, whereas the formulation, rationale and ownership of formal constraints played a crucial role in defining their influence on creativity – along with the tacit constraints held by the designers. The designers were found to be highly constraint focused, and four main creative strategies for constraint manipulation were observed: blackboxing, removal, introducing and revising. Constraints introduced late in a project contributed to the generation of new solutions to old problems, and existing solutions were creatively adopted to satisfy new constraints. This paper recommends creative constraint-handling strategies, as well as identifying potential directions for future research on the relationship between creativity and constraints
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Engineering Design
Volume23
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)323-336
Number of pages14
ISSN0954-4828
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Cite this

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title = "Creativity from Constraints in Engineering Design: Lessons Learned at Coloplast",
abstract = "This paper investigates the role of constraints in limiting and enhancing creativity in engineering design. Based on a review of literature relating constraints to creativity, the paper presents a longitudinal participatory study from Coloplast A/S, a major international producer of disposable medical equipment. At Coloplast, constraints played a fundamental role and the observations show the important, dual role of constraints in terms of being a limitation and a prerequisite for creativity. Too few or too many constraints had a negative impact on creativity, whereas the formulation, rationale and ownership of formal constraints played a crucial role in defining their influence on creativity – along with the tacit constraints held by the designers. The designers were found to be highly constraint focused, and four main creative strategies for constraint manipulation were observed: blackboxing, removal, introducing and revising. Constraints introduced late in a project contributed to the generation of new solutions to old problems, and existing solutions were creatively adopted to satisfy new constraints. This paper recommends creative constraint-handling strategies, as well as identifying potential directions for future research on the relationship between creativity and constraints",
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Creativity from Constraints in Engineering Design : Lessons Learned at Coloplast. / Onarheim, Balder.

In: Journal of Engineering Design, Vol. 23, No. 4, 2012, p. 323-336.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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AB - This paper investigates the role of constraints in limiting and enhancing creativity in engineering design. Based on a review of literature relating constraints to creativity, the paper presents a longitudinal participatory study from Coloplast A/S, a major international producer of disposable medical equipment. At Coloplast, constraints played a fundamental role and the observations show the important, dual role of constraints in terms of being a limitation and a prerequisite for creativity. Too few or too many constraints had a negative impact on creativity, whereas the formulation, rationale and ownership of formal constraints played a crucial role in defining their influence on creativity – along with the tacit constraints held by the designers. The designers were found to be highly constraint focused, and four main creative strategies for constraint manipulation were observed: blackboxing, removal, introducing and revising. Constraints introduced late in a project contributed to the generation of new solutions to old problems, and existing solutions were creatively adopted to satisfy new constraints. This paper recommends creative constraint-handling strategies, as well as identifying potential directions for future research on the relationship between creativity and constraints

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