Providing Timely Examples Improves the Quantity and Quality of Generated Ideas

Pao Siangliulue, Joel Chan, Krzysztof Z. Gajos, and Steven P. Dow



Emerging online ideation platforms with thousands of example ideas provide an important resource for creative production. But how can ideators best use these examples to create new innovations? Recent work has suggested that not just the choice of examples, but also the timing of their delivery can impact creative outcomes. Building on existing cognitive theories of creative insight, we hypothesize that people are likely to benefit from examples when they run out of ideas. We explore two example delivery mechanisms that test this hypothesis: 1) a system that proactively provides examples when a user appears to have run out of ideas, and 2) a system that provides examples when a user explicitly requests them. Our online experiment (N=97) compared these two mechanisms against two baselines: providing no examples and automatically showing examples at a regular interval. Participants who requested examples themselves generated ideas that were rated the most novel by external evaluators. Participants who received ideas automatically when they appeared to be stuck produced the most ideas. Importantly, participants who received examples at a regular interval generated fewer ideas than participants who received no examples, suggesting that mere access to examples is not sufficient for creative inspiration. These results emphasize the importance of the timing of example delivery. Insights from this study can inform the design of collective ideation support systems that help people generate many high quality ideas.

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Citation Information

Pao Siangliulue, Joel Chan, Krzysztof Z. Gajos, and Steven P. Dow. Providing timely examples improves the quantity and quality of generated ideas. In Proceedings of the 2015 ACM SIGCHI Conference on Creativity and Cognition, C&C '15, pages 83-92, New York, NY, USA, 2015. ACM.