Whenever you hear of some great and disruptive new idea, do you ever think to yourself: Why didn’t I think of that?
Do you wonder what’s holding you back from your next best epiphany or spark of creative genius? Many people believe that they lack creativity because of specific constraints such as not enough time, not enough money, or perhaps they work or live in a world where barriers prevent them from thinking outside the box.
But here’s the irony of it all: these constraints don’t stifle creativity. They actually cultivate it. Our creative selves rise up to the challenge when given constraints or limitations. Think of your creative mind like a muffin: somehow, someway, it finds a way to explode and flourish, despite the confines of the pan it calls home.
So, if lack of time or money isn’t to blame for your creative shortcomings, what is? It can actually be summed up in one simple word: fixedness.
Fixedness is when our minds refuse to see the world differently than what we’ve become accustomed to. There are three types of fixedness that prevents even the most creative of us from ever reaching our fullest potential.
This is when our minds refuse to accept that an object can do a job other than what it was originally designed to do. Who would have thought that you could flip a cheese grater upside down, stick it on the wall, and use it as a holder for utensils?
But you can. And somebody – who cast aside the functional fixedness mindset – imagined it and introduced it into the world.
Structural fixedness is when we struggle to imagine objects having a different structure than what we’re used to. If Adam Osborne allowed that mindset to takeover in 1981, he likely never would have invented the world’s first laptop, the Osborne 1. Imagine where we’d be today!
Often times, the most useful innovations are ones that adapt existing products into a more user-friendly package. Whether it’s a bendable straw or a pen with a better grip, these tiny structural changes to existing products make a lasting impact on the world.
Relational fixedness makes it hard for us to imagine two objects having a relationship that wasn’t there before. Our minds naturally don’t form these types of connections because of relational fixedness. But creating relationships between two existing products can result in some incredibly creative outcomes. Take Dean Kamen’s Segway, which combined the idea of walking, with the convenience of motorized transportation.
All of us have these three types of fixedness, which hold us back from accepting – and imaging – new possibilities. The good news is we don’t have to be slave to these fixed mindsets.
While there are many approaches to turning a fixed mindset into a growth mindset, a good place to start is:
Take the time to listen to both your voices, while you practice your ability to act on your growth mindset voice. Over time, you very well may be one of those people that folks say, “Wow, I wish I could think like that.”