A Path to More Creative Thinking

003: Divide and Conquer – How to Use the Division Technique
August 10, 2020
004: The Closed World Principle of Creativity
August 17, 2020

A Path to More Creative Thinking

Innovation is a skill. It’s not a gift. It’s not something you’re born with. But you can actually learn to be creative like you could learn any other skill – whether it be in business or in your personal life or some other skill that you want to learn like a new sport.

What is Creativity?

Think of creativity as a process, a cognitive process, which is something that happens inside your head. But your brain produces lots of thoughts that aren’t creative. So what’s the difference?

The 3 Criteria for Creative Thought 

  1. It’s new.

You haven’t had that idea before. Others may have had that idea before you, and that’s okay because it’s still due from your perspective. 

  1. It’s useful.

This is the process of innovation where you take some new idea and put it into practice for somebody’s benefit.

  1. It’s surprising.

The idea is simple and obvious that you immediately see its cleverness and usefulness. There’s a sudden glory to it that it makes you smile or even chuckle. 

The Barriers to Creativity

There are types of constraints such as when you don’t have the time or the budget to generate creative ideas or there are regulatory or legal barriers that prevent you from generating novel ideas. These can seem frustrating and overwhelming. They appear to be strict boundaries that seem to limit your ability to be creative. 

Surprisingly, those constraints are not a barrier to creativity. In fact, constraints are a necessary condition for creativity to occur because your brain works harder and smarter. When given tight boundaries, the more constrained you are, the more creative you become. Rather, the real barrier to creativity is fixedness.

The 3 Types of Fixedness

  1. Functional Fixedness

This is when it’s hard for you to consider an object doing a job other than what you know it does.

Ex: The job of a dry erase marker is to mark. But if you force your mind to think of it as doing another job, you break that functional fixedness and end up with a more creative idea. 

If you accidentally wrote something using a permanent marker on the whiteboard, writing over it using a dry erase marker will remove the permanent marking. Now, the marker is not just a writing tool, but it also helps you clean up the permanent mark that you accidentally wrote on the board. Then you’ve broken functional fixedness. 

  1. Structural Fixedness

This type is when it’s really hard to imagine objects having a different structure than what we’re used to.

Ex: The dry erase marker is always straight as a pen. This idea of the structure is fixedness. Now, imagine it being curved or you have to bend it to fit into your hand. By thinking that way, you’ve broken structural fixedness and given yourself the potential to be more creative.

  1. Relational Fixedness

This is when it’s very hard to imagine two objects having a relationship that wasn’t there before. 

Ex: Imagine a dry erase marker that can change colors automatically when writing on different areas of the whiteboard. That breaks relational fixedness and it’s given you the potential to create new value.

To learn more about how to increase your creative potential and break fixedness, listen to the full podcast episode here: Episode 001: A Path to More Creative Thinking.