10:50 - 12:30
Session: S06
[Physical and the Virtual] + Design
First Impressions Matter (Maybe More than Prior Design Experience): The Predictive Power of Soft-Skills on Student Performance in a Team-Based Design Course
Soft Skills; Design Teams; Team Formation; Interdisciplinary; Cross-Functional Teams

The data in this study was collected over five sequential years in a team-based interdisciplinary product design course. Each year students participate in brief interviews and respond to a short questionnaire in the first week of class as part of the process of forming teams. Some of the data collected relates to prior experience with traditional physical design skills and some relates to soft skills. The major finding of this study is that these soft skills (e.g., interest in the discipline, timeliness, ability to work on a team, etc.), which were assessed via brief initial interactions with the students, can significantly and reliably predict later performance on four different individual course evaluations including an idea generation assignment, an elevator pitch, peer review scores, and the final class grade. Furthermore, a first order analysis also indicates the number of self-identified traditional physical design skills that one possesses at the beginning of the class (e.g., wood shop experience, CAD software experience) has no significant relationship with those same course assessments. Mapping this academic study to an industry setting, a creative and enthusiastic team-player may be a better fit for a team than someone with the ideal set of technical skills but lacking in the soft skills.