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When Are Designers Willing to Take Risks? How Concept Creativity and Prototype Fidelity Influence Perceived Risk

E. Starkey, J. Menold, and S. Miller
2019, Journal of Mechanical Design

Building prototypes is an important part of the concept selection phase of the design process, where fuzzy ideas get represented to support communication and decision making. However, the previous studies have shown that prototypes generate different levels of user feedback based on their fidelity and esthetics. Furthermore, prior research on concept selection has shown that individual risk attitude effects how individuals select ideas, as creative ideas are perceived to be riskier in comparison to less creative ideas. While the role of risk has been investigated in concept selection, there is lack of research on how risk is related to the selection of prototypes at various levels of fidelity. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of prototype fidelity, concept creativity, and risk aversion on perceived riskiness and concept selection through a between-subjects study with 72 engineering students. The results revealed that there was a “goldilocks” effect in which students choose concepts with “just the right amount” of novelty, not too much and not too little, as long as quality was adequate. In addition, the prototype fidelity of a concept had an interaction with uniqueness, indicating that unique concepts are more likely to be perceived as less risky if presented at higher levels of fidelity.