A commonly held presumption is that the production of a team is superior to that of individual performance. However, in certain scenarios, such as during brainstorming activities and in configuration engineering design problems, it has been shown that individuals working alone are more effective than teams working together. This research considers whether the same outcomes hold for a more open-ended scenario, in conceptual engineering design. Thus, a behavioral study is run with freshman engineering students solving a conceptual design problem working in teams or individually. Results corroborate previous findings, showing that individuals outperform teams in the quality of their design solutions. One of the primary differences between individuals and group problem solving is the fact that groups need to verbalize to communicate ideas. Consequently, this study also analyzes how verbalization, which may be one disadvantage of team problem solving, affects the performance of individuals in this context of conceptual engineering design. Individuals who verbalize throughout problem solving, however, perform similarly to those who did not. Overall, the results from this study suggest that, individuals are still better performers and teams may not always be the optimal circumstance. Moreover, verbalization does not seem to act as a cognitive barrier to problem solving, and further investigation needs to be done to diagnose the potential impediments which put teams at a disadvantage to individuals during conceptual design.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.