Distributed Ideation: Idea Generation in Distributed Capstone Engineering Design Teams Academic Article uri icon


  • This paper documents two studies in distributed idea generation at Texas A&M. The first study is a controlled two-factor experiment wherein three-person groups of mechanical engineering capstone design students generate solutions to a simple design problem using either brainstorming or a modified 635 method in either a distributed or collocated team. Eight groups participated in the experiment; two were assigned to each of the four experimental conditions. The ideas produced are evaluated in terms of quantity, quality, novelty, and variety, using a series of metrics described in the paper. The modified 635 method produced the highest quantity of non-redundant ideas; the team's distribution had no significant effect on the number of ideas they produced. Distributed teams using the modified 635 method generated the highest quality ideas, while collocated teams using the same method produced the most variety. Collocated brainstorming teams generated the most novel ideas. The other study presented in this paper documents the performance of two globally distributed Mechanical Engineering capstone design teams. These student teams are composed of members from Texas A&M College Station and Texas A&M Qatar in Doha Qatar. The two teams participate in a controlled ideation experiment to generate possible solutions to their respective design problem; a third team with all its members in College Station also participates in the experiment. The teams generate ideas using the modified 635 method. This experiment confirms that the modified 635 method is a viable ideation technique for distributed teams and seems to confirm that the quantity of ideas generated with the method is not dependent on the team's distribution. Furthermore, instructors for the globally distributed teams observe that the teams performed on par with typical collocated capstone design teams. © 2011 TEMPUS Publications.

author list (cited authors)

  • Glier, M. W., Schmidt, S. R., Linsey, J. S., & McAdams, D. A.

publication date

  • November 2011