Transactions on Software Engineering,
September 2021 · DOI:10.1109/TSE.2021.3112503
Desiderata is a general term for stakeholder needs, desires or preferences. Recent experiments demonstrate that presenting desiderata as templated requirements specifications leads to less creative solutions. However, these experiments do not establish how the presentation of desiderata affects design creativity. This study, therefore, aims to explore the cognitive mechanisms by which presenting desiderata as templated requirements specifications reduces creativity during software design. Forty-two software designers, organized into 21 pairs, participated in a dialog-based protocol study. Their interactions were transcribed and the transcripts were analyzed in two ways: (1) using inductive process coding and (2) using an a-priori coding scheme focusing on fixation and critical thinking. Process coding shows that participants exhibited seven categories of behavior: making design moves, uncritically accepting, rejecting, grouping, questioning, assuming and considering quality criteria. Closed coding shows that participants tend to accept given requirements and priority levels while rejecting newer, more innovative design ideas. Overall, the results suggest that designers fixate on desiderata presented as templated requirements specifications, hindering critical thinking. More precisely, requirements fixation mediates the negative relationship between specification formality and creativity.