Inducing Need-Solution Pair Recognition in a Laboratory Setting

41 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2017 Last revised: 14 Dec 2017

Ruth Maria Stock

Darmstadt University of Technology

Eric A. von Hippel

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Christian Holthaus

Darmstadt University of Technology

Nils Gillert

Darmstadt University of Technology

Date Written: December 2017

Abstract

Generally, it is assumed in the problem-solving literature that a need or problem is first recognized or formulated, and then problem-solving steps are undertaken to identify or develop a responsive solution. However, in the case of individual cognition, it is also possible that both a need and a responsive solution “pop into” consciousness at the same time, offering a need paired with a solution without a conscious problem formulation or a conscious problem-solving process.

The use of the need-solution recognition pathway for solution-finding offers two main advantages over the traditional, “need first” process. First, this alternative pathway removes the often-considerable costs associated with explicit problem formulation and subsequent conscious search for potential solutions. Second, as this pathway represents a wholly different process for solution-finding, it may likely reveal innovative solutions that may otherwise remain undiscovered via the traditional problem-first pathway. The value of these advantages might be especially high in everyday life, where individuals are often faced with the necessity of understanding and engaging with an ever-changing environment using very limited resources.

Via a laboratory experiment we show that simultaneous coming into consciousness of a need and responsive solution – a need-solution pair - is commonly experienced by participating subjects. We also propose a cognitive mechanism that can explain this finding: a tendency of the brain to mentally classify objects observed in terms of their function. We also show that solutions recognized as need-solution pairs have on average significantly higher creativity and novelty than solutions generated pursuant to a “need-first” problem-solving process, and perhaps higher value too. Taken together, these findings suggest that recognition of need-solution pairs by individuals may prove to be of substantial practical as well as research interest.

Keywords: Need-Solution Pairs; Problem solving; Innovation; Creativity; Knowledge production; Information transfer costs; Managerial and organizational cognition; Organization and management theory; Information transfer costs

Suggested Citation

Stock, Ruth Maria and von Hippel, Eric A. and Holthaus, Christian and Gillert, Nils, Inducing Need-Solution Pair Recognition in a Laboratory Setting (December 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2902117 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2902117

Ruth Maria Stock

Darmstadt University of Technology ( email )

Hochschulstr. 1
Darmstadt, Hesse D-64289
Germany

Eric Von Hippel (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

E62-455
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-7155 (Phone)
617-253-2660 (Fax)

Christian Holthaus

Darmstadt University of Technology ( email )

Universitaets- und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt
Magdalenenstrasse 8
Darmstadt, Hesse D-64289
Germany

Nils Gillert

Darmstadt University of Technology ( email )

Universitaets- und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt
Magdalenenstrasse 8
Darmstadt, Hesse D-64289
Germany

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