from R&D Innovator Volume 1, Number 5
and Barriers: Are
They Squelching Your Creativity?
Dr. Davis, professor of
educational psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is
author of Creativity Is
Forever (3rd ed. 1992), Kendall/Hunt Publishers, Dubuque,
weren't for certain blocks to creative thinking, I think most of
us would be far more creative.
Some of these blocks are found within ourselves, others are
habits, insecurities and a repressive environment can prevent us
from making full use of our inborn creative abilities.
The best countermeasure to "blocks and barriers"
is recognizing these creativity-squelching forces, and mustering
the independence and confidence to be ourselves and express our
creative ideas and solutions in spite of them.
at some common sources of creativity squelching, and
countermeasures to them.
and most obvious barrier is habit--our acquired patterns. Once learned, these habits are tough to break, but that is
just what we must do to see clearly and create new possibilities.
these habit-related squelchers?
never done it before."
to form habits and expectations is necessary for survival, but
when it comes to creativity, habit can be a curse.
tackling a problem, take a few seconds to ask yourself, "Am I
responding out of habit? Can
I find a better, more innovative solution?"
blocks also originate in learning and habit.
Our accustomed way of perceiving things interferes with the
ability to see new meaning, relationships, methods or
use the terms "functional fixity" or "mental
set" to describe this predisposition to perceive things in
certain ways. For example, based on symptoms that seem familiar, a
physician, scientist or executive may persistently misclassify a problem and treat it incorrectly.
heard these examples?
too early (or late)."
get over a perceptual barrier and come up with a creative
solution, you may kick yourself for not having seen it earlier.
The police entered a gym containing five wrestlers just as
the dying man looked at the ceiling and mumbled, "He did
immediately arrested one of the wrestlers.
How did they know who was guilty?
Remove six letters from ASIPXPLETLTERES.
What word is left? (Answers at end.)
blocks are difficult to overcome, but it helps to stay flexible,
keep an open mind and continually try to see a problem from
family to the laboratory to the international corporation, all
social groups must have rules, regulations, policies and
traditions to guide personal and group behavior. Unfortunately, too often "guide" actually means
"restrict" or "inhibit."
tradition-based barrier stems from the status
people are reluctant to suggest ideas to people in higher
positions, due to insecurity and fear of evaluation.
Likewise, higher-level people frequently resist ideas that
threaten the hierarchy ("Hey, let's make everybody
tradition-based obstacle is the formalization
barrier--the degree to which rules and procedures are enforced.
If group members must comply strictly with procedures,
creativity will suffer.
barriers are policies and regulations--written or unwritten--that
inhibit innovation. For
example, are research administrators promoted for their analytical
skills, or their ability to foster a creative atmosphere?
Does planning tend to be short-term or farsighted?
Do decision-makers avoid expenditures that don't produce an
immediate payback? Do
they micro-manage the development of an innovation?
can't do it under the regulations."
a rule, policy or procedure restricts innovation, I'd suggest
becoming a revolutionary. Challenge
the rule. Roger von
Oech, author of A Whack on
the Side of the Head, recommends holding
"rule-inspecting" and "rule-discarding"
sessions in your organization.
blocks can be summarized in two words:
It simply is uncomfortable to be different, to challenge
accepted ways of thinking and behaving. We learn that it's good to be correct, logical and practical;
to follow rules and avoid mistakes; and that "play is for
requires violating all of these norms.
thinkers, by definition, are not strong conformers in their
emotions that can "freeze" our thinking include anger,
fear, anxiety, hate and even love. Some are temporary states, possibly caused by problems with
co-workers, bosses, financial strains or difficulties with spouses
or children. Other
emotional blocks are chronic states of insecurity, anxiety and
fear of failure and criticism.
related to emotions:
newcomer is going to tell me how to run this laboratory!
If you are
upset, come back to the problem when you can concentrate.
Remember that innovative thinking requires risk-taking and
making waves; you must be sufficiently confident to risk criticism
and even failure.
barriers, including a shortage of people, money, time, supplies or
information, seem an unnecessary block to creativity.
Innovation requires such resources to a greater extent than
routine organizational procedures.
If you are hearing, "It's not in the budget" or
"We need more lead time," perhaps minor revisions to
budgets, scheduling or priorities would permit more effective work
on innovative projects.
these blocks are subtle but effective squelchers of imagination
and innovation. Again,
the best defense is to be aware of these forces and not let them
flatten your innovative thinking.
To help yourself see past the barriers, cultivate an
attitude of "creative discontent"--a belief that
anything can be improved.
thought about self-squelching:
If you believe you are not creative, you will be right.
2. Try removing S-I-X L-E-T-T-E-R-S.