Creativity in Design Engineers: Attitudes, Opinions and Potentially Influential Factors

  • Paul Neufeld 1University of Saskatchewan
  • Omid Mirzaei 1University of Saskatchewan
  • Mark Runco University of Georgia
  • Sean Maw 1University of Saskatchewan


Is creativity important in engineering design? If it is, then why do most undergraduate engineering programs spend so little time teaching creativity? And therefore, as a result of our programs, do our students emerge more creative, less creative or no different compared to when they arrived? If creativity is worth developing, can we accurately measure it in our students, and can we enhance it systematically?
These were some of the questions that motivated the initiation of a creativity research program in the College of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan. The assumption was that creativity is important in engineering, especially in design. The intent was to understand how we could assess creativity in our students and then enhance it.
The focus of this initial study is a precursor to many of these more applied questions. We had students and faculty from a variety of Colleges, including Engineering, answer an online survey that probed attitudes towards creativity, respondent personality characteristics, opinions regarding conditional influences on creativity, and potential demographic factors influencing the creativity of individuals. As well, we employed a validated creativity attitudes and beliefs measurement tool (rCAB) as an accepted benchmark for assessment.
The survey included both closed- and open-ended questions. The results from some of the open-ended questions have been analyzed to determine emerging groups of similar types of answers, and then efforts have been made to relate the groups in a meaningful framework.
The results for the Engineering students are emphasized, but they are also compared with students and faculty from other Colleges. Closed questions were analyzed using inferential statistical tests (distributions, means, standard deviations, t-tests, ANOVA, Cronbach’s alpha), while the open-ended responses are compared more qualitatively when they cannot be quantified easily.
The survey went through ethics approval and was distributed in the latter half of the Fall 2015 term.