In an “innovative thinking” class offered in the school of engineering, we systematically analyzed how frames manifested themselves at the layers of press, person, and process while students were working on projects. We further explored the influence that adopting four types of frame-breaking thinking—constructionist, dialectical, analogical, and exploratory thinking—might have on the way students conducted their projects. We proposed a framework systematically presenting the Janusian nature of innovative thinking, which could serve as an exemplar for designing innovation development courses for engineering students.
We conducted a qualitative study featuring theme analyses with theory-driven coding on data (including creative thinking manuals, term reports, and end-of-semester team interviews) collected from 21 students who took the class. We also administered a questionnaire to collect students’ opinions on the course and presented the results of their descriptive statistics.
Students’ mental calculations determine the meanings of the frames from the external press. Personal experiences on wellstructured problems could negatively influence the efficacy of solving ill-structured problems, at least at the beginning of the process. Using four types of frame-breaking thinking to perturb extant cognitive schema may produce the innovative tensions that breed creativity. In addition, descriptive statistics provide evidence for students' approvals on the course's methods and outcomes.
Exploring the nature of Janusian thinking in innovation by systematically investigating the nature of the three-layered frames and the impacts of the four types of frame-breaking thinking presents an analytical framework and a research angle new to the literature.
Innovation development should be driven by systematic operations on diverse or opposing ideas in problem-solving situations rather than activities that manipulate ideas in context-free scenarios.