Product dissection is a tool widely used in industry and academia as a means to understand components of existing products and identify opportunities for design. Dissection activities have the potential to impact design creativity because dissection is performed in the early phases of design, which is arguably the most influential phase of the design process. However, researchers have only just begun to explore the relationship between dissection and creativity, and thus little research to date has identified how variations in dissection activities impact creativity. Therefore, in this paper we respond to this research gap by presenting the results of a controlled experiment developed to understand how the type and number of products dissected and the structure and medium of the dissection task (electronic versus physical) impacts creativity. Our quantitative findings (from ANOVAs) are paired with qualitative analysis (interview results) to provide rationale for our results and insights into their cognitive underpinnings. The results from this study indicate that the structure of the dissection activity, the medium of dissection, and the number of products dissected impacts the variety of the generated concepts while the analogical distance and number of products impacts design novelty. These findings are used to develop recommendations for the alteration of dissection methods for inspiring creative thought in engineering design.

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