A visual representation to characterize moment-to-moment concept generation through interpersonal interactions in engineering design teams

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Concept generation activity, an activity in which a number of design concepts are generated for further evaluation through prototyping and testing, is an important stage in the engineering design process. In design practice and design education, concept generation activity is often conducted in teams. During this activity, designers interact with one another to generate a number of design concepts. Prior research on concept generation activity in design teams has either looked into understanding the inter-relations between concepts generated, or into identifying specific behaviors in interpersonal interaction. There is a lack of understanding of the manner through which design concepts are generated moment-to-moment from the interpersonal interactions between designers. The present work aims to provide an explanation of concept generation through moment-to-moment interpersonal interaction behaviors by developing a visual representation of the phenomenon. In order to develop this visual representation, an empirical study is conducted in which the concept generation activity of two teams is analyzed through the point of view of collective improvisation. Based on improvisation principles, a visual notation called the Interaction Dynamics Notation is developed. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of this visual notation, it is applied to concept generation activity of three teams selected from a field context of ongoing graduate engineering design projects. The resultant visual representation of the concept generation activity is successful in identifying eight patterns of interaction that characterize moment-to-moment concept generation, such as transitions between ideas and facts, the presence of periods of sustained idea expressions, the occurrence of improvisation behavior, question-asking and humor in periods of sustained idea expressions, the existence of blocking behavior which at times influenced further ideas, the presence of interruptions that were not detrimental to concept generation, and the resumption of concepts in conversation. The Interaction Dynamics Notation thus enables us to 'see' concept generation through moment-to-moment interpersonal interactions in design teams. The main contribution of this study is the development of a visual representation, the Interaction Dynamics Notation that brings together prior research on concept generation and prior research on interpersonal behaviors in a team. The notation provides a detailed explanation of concept generation activity through moment-to-moment interpersonal interactions in an intuitive visual form.


Type of resource text
Form electronic; electronic resource; remote
Extent 1 online resource.
Publication date 2012
Issuance monographic
Language English


Associated with Sonalkar, Neeraj Satish
Associated with Stanford University, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Primary advisor Leifer, Larry J
Thesis advisor Leifer, Larry J
Thesis advisor Mabogunje, Ade
Thesis advisor Sheppard, S. (Sheri)
Advisor Mabogunje, Ade
Advisor Sheppard, S. (Sheri)


Genre Theses

Bibliographic information

Statement of responsibility Neeraj Sonalkar.
Note Submitted to the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Thesis Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2012.
Location electronic resource

Access conditions

© 2012 by Neeraj Satish Sonalkar
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).

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