What’s In a Name?

Episode 027: Creative Ways to Improve How People See You: Adding Prestige to Who You Are
January 25, 2021
Episode 028: Why Some People See Creative Ideas More Clearly Than Others
February 1, 2021

What’s In a Name?

Naming objects is very useful. We name things all the time because it makes things efficient. It helps us understand our world and it’s how we communicate with others. 

The truth is that the names we give certain items create this barrier to innovative thinking. 

And if you want to be more creative, a quick way to do it is by changing the names of things around you. 

Now, how exactly do you do that?

A Barrier To Creativity

A word conjures up images and sensations. It’s a shortcut because it helps us recognize things instantly. 

But by doing this, we create a barrier to innovative thinking. Because once we’ve given something a name, we find it very difficult to see that object doing something else other than the task assigned to it. It’s very difficult for us to imagine using an object for something other than what it was. 

This is a condition called fixedness. 

How to Break Functional Fixedness 

Tony McCaffrey was a postdoc student at the University of Massachusetts and did a clever little trick. Imagine an item and break it into its component parts. Then give each component a new generalized name, and change the names of the things around you. This is actually the first step of the Systematic Inventive Thinking (SIT) method. 

Try this experiment. 

Imagine you’re in the kitchen making a smoothie for lunch. You take out the blender, and you put it on your countertop. Then apply this little trick. Look at each component of the blender, and give it a different name. 

Instead of the handle, give it a different name, like a protruding stick item or hard metal plastic side element. 

Once you’ve changed the name, you’ve detached it and separated it from its function. Now, you’re in a better position to see a more creative opportunity than you would have otherwise.

To hear more on how to break fixedness and improve creativity, listen to the full podcast episode here: Episode 026: What’s In a Name?