Need-Solution Pair Recognition Driven by Object Oriented Solution-Finding
38 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2017 Last revised: 24 Sep 2018
Date Written: September 1, 2018
It is generally assumed that in order to find a solution, one must begin the process by first identifying a problem, followed by attempts to solve it. This notion, however, was challenged by von Hippel and von Krogh (2016); rather than starting the process with problem formulation, people may also find solutions by having insights regarding both a previously unidentified need and a responsive solution - a “need-solution pair.” In this paper, we provide empirical evidence for need-solution pair recognition, and also identify the cognitive mechanisms that may underlie this form of solution-finding. We posit that need-solution pairs emerge from a robust recognition system that relies on action-oriented, function-based reasoning about objects.
To test this hypothesis, we conducted an experiment in which we manipulated functional object reasoning by (1) adjusting object familiarity and (2) adjusting the level of instructions to actively solve problems. In the context of our experiment, solutions by need-solution pair recognition occurred just as often as need-first solutions, with need-solution pair recognition being best supported when constraints on functional object understanding were reduced. Specifically, identification of need-solution pairs was enhanced most in environments with unfamiliar objects, where participants were not directed to solve specific problems. These results are consistent with research in cognitive neuroscience that explicates the importance of functional understanding of objects in recognition. We extend this research by showing that functional object understanding can result in solution-finding under the right circumstances. We conclude with a discussion of implications of our findings for further research and improved practice.
Keywords: Need-Solution pairs; Insight; Object understanding; Affordances; Solution finding; Problem-solving; Innovation; Creativity; Knowledge production; Information transfer costs; Managerial and organizational cognition; Organization and management theory; Information transfer costs
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