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What did social psychologists ever do for us? May 29, 2013

Posted by jennibarrett in Uncategorized.
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If you’re an avid reader of the Journal of Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, (which I’m sure you are), you’ll have spotted my recent article publication:

The Social Life of the Novel Idea:
What did social psychologists ever do for us?

This paper is a first step in rescuing the study of the design process as a solitary activity towards an understanding of its social aspects.  Understanding how social behaviour influences the design process is crucial if we are to improve our collaborative skills and embed effective interdisciplinary design techniques into design and construction project processes.

many small light bulbs equal big one
Source:  picstopin

So, the paper looks at the key theories in the field of social psychology and interrogates literature from the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) sector to see if there is any evidence of a link between social behaviour and design team creativity.  It turns out that there is a HUGE body of work identifying a link between social behaviour and group creativity but this has yet to be meaningfully supplanted in our own field.  There’s a lot of work still to do….

Following this extensive trawl through stacks of peer reviewed documentation in the psychology and AEC fields, I managed to identify three broad areas which have particular relevance to collaborative design in the built environment.  These are:

1.  The Social Climate:  Group cohesiveness can either enhance our ability to navigate a shared idea or it can also present barriers via ‘groupthink.’

2.  Motivation & Reward:  Are teams being procured and motivated in the direction of individual quick wins (proself) or towards decisions that will benefit the group or the shared designed outcome (prosocial)?

3.  Risk Attitudes:  The way that risk is perceived, valued and shared amongst the team will have significant impacts on design outcomes.

There’s a lot of work to do to connect the established social psychology theory with our own practice, but hopefully a clearer picture of the collaborative design process will emerge.  The next stage of research aims to test this theoretical analysis against the perceptions and experiences of built environment practitioners and I’ll be circulating an online survey soon.

For those with an Emerald subscription (usually via your institution), you can access the full article here.

If you don’t have a subscription, but would like to see a copy, drop me line….