The aim of the Ideation Flexibility Workshop is to provide a venue for discussing the challenges of ideation fixation and potential approaches for alleviating its effects — i.e., for encouraging ideation flexibility. In addition to the participants' contributions to this dialogue, we provide participants with a deep understanding of our work in ideation flexibility and the materials we have developed to support it. 

Specifically, our research investigates the impacts of problem framing, ideation tools, and ideation teaming on engineering ideation flexibility, with the aim of creating guidelines and methods to help engineers increase that flexibility by learning how to deliberately approach ideation differently. Participants have the opportunity to develop specific plans for using these materials in their own classrooms or businesses.

Our workshops provide an opportunity to discuss the challenges in understanding ideation fixation and flexibility in engineering and design, while at the same time reflecting on some of the methods we introduce to the participants.

Please contact us for more information or to schedule a workshop.

Previous Workshops

International Design Engineering Technical Conferences (IDETC) 2016

Speakers: Shanna Daly, University of Michigan; Kathryn Jablokow, Penn State University

Dates: August 21-24, 2016

Location: Charlotte, NC


Ideation is a crucial skill for all engineers; however, generating a diverse set of ideas can be a struggle. One element of ideation diversity is the extent to which a designer has explored ideas that range from incremental to radical within the relevant design space. Challenges in generating ideas across this range are partially due to one’s natural cognitive preferences to preserve or modify current paradigms. However, design tools can support engineers in generating ideas across this continuum. This workshop will present and seek feedback from design educators and practitioners on prototypes of three design tools developed from research to support ideation by both student and practicing engineers: 1) the Problem Framing Guide, which provides engineers with a structure for developing problem statements that lead to more incremental and radical ideas; 2) the Incremental to Radical Heuristic Cards, which provide ideation prompts, examples, and directions to incorporate more incremental and more radical changes to their ideas; and 3) the Teaming Profile, which guides team ideation and synthesis of ideas based on awareness of one’s own cognitive characteristics and those of one’s team members. We will present research that informed the development of these tools, and the tools will be provided to participants for their use in their own courses or design practices. Additionally, we will invite collaborators to further our research on the impact of the tools on design process and outcomes.

ASME 2015 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences (IDETC)

ASME in Boston on August 2nd!

Speakers/Organizers: Seda Yilmaz, Kathryn Jablokow, Shanna Daly
Dates: August 2nd, 2015
Location: TBD

Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities (A2RU) 2014


The theme for the A2RU 2014 National Conference, Edge Effects, serves as an apt analogy for the great wealth of arts-integrative interdisciplinary research, curricula and creative practices in which a2ru partners engage. At these edges scholars and creators from the arts and other disciplines form unique relationships, make creative and scholarly adaptations and, in many cases, create new fields, knowledge and modes of creative expression.

This panel discussed methods and findings of an NSF-funded, multidisciplinary project examining ideation flexibility, performance, teaming, tools and problem framing among students from both research and educational perspectives. They highlighted the integration of three disciplines (engineering, industrial design, and education) and facilitate an in-depth discussion of how each discipline complements the others in contributing to the project. 

International Design & Engineering Technical Conference (IDETC) 2014

The aim of the Ideation Flexibility Workshop is to provide a diverse set of participants with an understanding of our research and the materials we have developed to support ideation flexibility, as well as providing a venue in which they can develop specific plans for using these materials in their own classrooms. The intent is for participants to return to their institutions fully prepared and committed to integrating our approaches and materials into their curricula and to collecting student outcomes and case examples that will be shared with the greater community

Attendees will be introduced to best practices in ideation and asked to generate a set of conceptual solutions to a pre-defined design problem. This exercise will be used to set a benchmark for their approaches to ideation. After this, they will be introduced to three interventions that can impact ideation flexibility: Problem Framing, Ideation Tools, and Ideation Teaming. Attendees will also be asked to use these methods with engineering problems they assign to their students and/or face in the workplace. 

American Packaging Corporation (October 2013)

In October 2013, we conducted a 3-hour workshop at a local company, American Packaging Corporation. American Packaging is a printer and converter of flexible packaging materials for food, medical, and industrial products. As such, their products are used to protect and sell consumer goods products. They are continuously challenged to enhance the consumer’s experience with the product by improving the point of sale, package conveniences, and shelf life of the products. 

They engaged our help in order to open their range of thoughts and to improve the quality and process to create these ideas. The common feedback among their staff of Technical, Purchasing, and Research & Design folks was that this workshop was the highlight of their 3-days of meetings.

Their purchasing team has reported that they used the tools we introduced on two occasions thus far to have a paper supplier produce an alternate grade of material with modified performance, and to work with a resin supplier on an engineered blend of polymers with enhanced function at no cost increase. Their technical had the opportunity to practice the concepts ion a microwaveable burrito application with hear susceptor for browning/crisping. These are just few examples of how they have employed a more rigorous and enabled ideation process.