The IDeaLab: Creative and innovative problem solving
with technology-based solutions
Verne Abe Harris,
Arizona State University
"I’ve gained lots of knowledge. I now know
a thousand things that won’t work."
– Thomas Edison who, after 1,000 attempts to find
the perfect filament for the incandescent lamp,
went on to try 800 more ideas, until he found the best
In response to the need for creative and innovative
problem solving for industry, the IDeaLab was established
at Arizona State University. The IDeaLab presents a
creative approach to problem-based learning with technology-based
solutions. The IDeaLab examines the role of human factors
on innovation and technology management. It is an interdisciplinary
human factor and usability engineering innovation laboratory.
The innovative thinking component of the IDeaLab is
based on the art and science of breakthrough thinking.
The goal is to learn to think differently and improve
ideation and the inventive thinking process.
Quality implementation of product design, processes,
and services bears little value to society if the innovator
does not spend enough time in the thinking process.
Radical thinking approaches need to be applied to business
problem solving. American and international businesses
in the 21st century need strategic employees
who know how to think creatively and innovatively in
order to produce sustainable economic growth.
Because technology is socially, culturally, economically,
and politically constructed by our society, technology
changes our society and our lives. Both informed decision-making
in a democratic society and the economic health of the
United States are dependent on managers and workers
who are innovative and creative thinkers and who address
ethical issues. The creative application of technology
in solving problems impacts the life of the American
consumer by its effect on the economy.
Global businesses need employees who know how to think
and solve problems inventively in order to produce economic
results. Sustainable economic growth is dependent upon
innovative technological application and organization
of technical systems in businesses. Strategic employees
in the 21st century are innovative thinkers who understand
how to apply problem-based learning with out-of-the-box
approaches in an organization.
One approach to out-of-the-box thinking is problem-based
learning (PBL), which is based on the idea that learning
is initiated by identifying a real-world problem (Duch
et al. 2001). Students are motivated to discover solutions
to problems through group questioning and evaluation.
This methodology of progressive disclosure (Barrows
and Tamblyn 1980) has the characteristics of scholarly
inquiry through critical thinking. The IDeaLab at Arizona
State University proposes to take problem-based learning
and enhance its value through groundbreaking thinking.
The IDeaLab ia a response to the growing concern that
students at all levels are merely being taught to pass
tests, and are therefore becoming successful at memorizing
factual information and delivering packaged answers.
In order to learn how to take an original approach in
solving problems, one must learn how to think inventively,
often bringing about more questions than answers. The
good news is that novel thinking, both creative and
critical, can be developed and enhanced when threaded
throughout university disciplines.
>>Read the peer-reviewed paper here (PDF)