Fixedness: Your Main Barrier to Creative Thinking

009: How to Create and Run an Innovation Pilot Program
September 21, 2020
010: The Multiplication Technique: A Simple Tool with Many Creative Surprises Inside
September 28, 2020

Fixedness: Your Main Barrier to Creative Thinking

How do you develop your creativity?

As much as you want to or need to be creative, sometimes, there’s something that seems to block it. And one common barrier to creativity is this condition called fixedness.

Fixedness is something we all have. We can’t get rid of it. But when you want to be creative, you have to find a way to break it. 

3 Types of Fixedness

  • Functional Fixedness – You see objects, components, and things around you, and you can’t imagine them doing different functions than what they’re designed to do.
  1. Structural fixedness – This makes it really hard to imagine objects having a different structure than what we’re used to. 

Example: 

You probably imagine a dry erase marker in a straight, white, round tube. You know what it would feel like to hold in your hand. And that’s your structural fixedness kicking in. But dry erase markers don’t have to be straight. It’s just hard to imagine that because we don’t normally want to think of dry erase markers having a different structure than what we’re used to.

  1. Relational fixedness – This type of fixedness makes it very hard to imagine two objects having a relationship that wasn’t there before. 

Example:

Imagine you’re drawing at the top of the board with a dry erase marker and it changes its color as you get to different sections of the board.

5 Ways to Break Fixedness

Using the Systematic Inventive Thinking or SIT method, there are five techniques you can use to break fixedness:

Breaking Functional Fixedness

  1. Task unification –  You assign an additional job to an existing resource thereby breaking functional fixedness

Breaking Structural Fixedness

  1. Subtraction – You take a component away from a system so you can see new opportunities.
  2. Division technique – You take a component out of the system. You divide it physically or functionally and rearrange it. Then place it somewhere else back into the system, just randomly forcing it to be in a new place. 

Breaking relational fixedness

  1. Multiplication – You take a component, copy it, then change it in some counterintuitive, strange way. 
  2. Attribute dependency –  You take two attributes of the system, one from the product itself and one from its immediate environment. Then force the dependency that wasn’t there before or break a dependency that already exists.

To hear more about breaking the barriers to creative thinking, listen to the full podcast episode here: Episode 008: Fixedness: Your Main Barrier to Creative Thinking.