Fixedness...It's all in the Mind

In business, as in all areas of life, we become conditioned by our environment. We learn how things are done and eventually we can’t see any other way of doing them. This is very prevalent in large corporations where strong values, visions and mission statements interlinked with reward and recognition systems have a homogenising effect on staff. Everyone develops a common understanding and belief of the way things work.

In his book ‘Innovators Dilemma’ innovation researcher, Clayton Christiansen describes the internal mental block as a…

…“set of rules, assumptions and traditions which exert a strong influence on all decisions made in the organisation, particularly for and against innovation.”

To deliver real breakthrough ideas you need to break through fixedness and eliminate these internal preconceptions or mental blocks.

Lateral thinking techniques have played a significant role in trying to combat fixedness. The ‘box’ that De Bono taught us to think outside of is, in fact, fixedness. He uses different colour hats as triggers to avoid becoming fixed on one way of thinking.


Solving a problem the same way you always HAVE,


will give you the same solutions you’ve always HAD!!


Unfortunately most lateral thinking techniques are unstructured and rely on generating lots of ideas, in the hope that one will be right. It was de Bono who once said, "It is better to have enough ideas for some to be wrong, than to be always right and have no ideas" 

However, business today doesn’t need more ideas, it needs the right ideas. Having too many ideas tying up resources in endless rounds of concept sorts and feasibility, is almost as bad as having none at all.

But is Fixedness real?

Absolutely. Fixedness has been demonstrated and documented by several eminent psychologists such as Karl Dunker, Norman Maier and Abraham Luchins.

But, it was Genrick Altshuller, the father of TRIZ (Inventive Problem Solving) who first recogmised the need to limit the effects of fixedness by using systematic thinking to push thinking beyond the limits of what we already know and believe.

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