Research on evolution, problem solving, and creativity (Campbell, 1960; Alcock, 1989) has identified three important elements of a problem-solving process:
a mechanism that creates variation;
a mechanism that selects one or several solutions from among this variation;
a mechanism that inherits some or all of the characteristics from the selected variation to some future variation.
Concerning the creation of variation we have to distinguish between variations that are the outcome of pure randomness and variations that are purposefully created by a designer. Consider a product development example: the design of a safer vehicle. In this example, the problem corresponds to people dying in automotive accidents and every automotive design can be seen as a hypothesis (tentative solution) of what constitutes the safest car. One might be able to find a safe vehicle by simply trying out random variations of the vehicle geometry and its materials. However, a more effective problem solver would not just vary the vehicle geometry randomly. Instead, she would look at vehicles involved in accidents that led to traffic fatalities (problems) and consider targeted reinforcements of certain parts of the vehicle (e.g., a thicker steel for the door). The section 'Creation of variation' on page 149 discusses different forms of variations as well as the processes that lead to new variations in the product development context.
The second element of ...