The DRUID16 20th Anniversary Conference, Copenhagen Business School, June 13 – 15, 2016
Design myopia and vicarious learning from good versus bad examples: Evidence from creative design competitions
D’Amore-McKim School of Business, Northeastern University
F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business, Babson College
High-quality creative designs create tremendous value for organizations, but how do individual designers learn to produce better designs? Learning often presumes evaluation of performance that is objective and immediate, but in creative design evaluation is social and temporally displaced, providing hard-to- interpret signals for learning. Drawing on data from a ten-year panel of almost 180,000 T-shirt design submissions and 150 million design evaluations on an online crowdsourcing platform, we investigate how individuals learn from their own work and vicariously learn from observing others’ work. We find that in the absence of vicarious learning, individuals experience “design myopia” resulting in successively lower quality designs before reaching a positive learning rate. Furthermore, individuals learn from evaluating good examples of others, but they generally fail to learn from evaluating bad examples. We also find that experience helps individuals not only to gain high evaluations from others but also to learn to understand the “black box” of how designs are chosen for production. We discuss implications for the development of online crowdsourcing platforms and for the management of creative design more broadly.