The IDeaLab: Creative and innovative problem solving with technology-based solutions

La 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 solution.

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.

1. Introduction
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)

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