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Removing Barriers to Creativity

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Successful creative thinking requires you to be aware of the barriers which may weaken your creativity, and prevent you from coming up with innovative ideas and finding great new solutions to problems. One of the most common barriers to creativity is fear of failure. This barrier might stop you putting ideas out there, in case someone laughs at them or even ridicules you for coming up with such crazy thoughts.

Another common barrier to creativity is relying too much on old ideas and established ways of thinking. This might be due to simple laziness on your part, or it could be that you are operating in an environment that puts too much emphasis on maintaining the status quo. To overcome these kinds of barriers, it is essential that you begin to ‘think outside the box’, travel down roads you are not used to, move out of your comfort zone, and abandon familiar practices. Luckily, there are tactics you can use to help you eliminate the typical barriers to creativity you may encounter.

Tactics to remove barriers

Tactic 1: Challenge your biases and preconceptions

A bias is an inclination towards one way of thinking. Having a bias means you lean in a certain direction from the outset. You tend to believe what you want to believe, and are reluctant to take other people’s opinions into consideration. This can obviously have a negative impact on your creative thinking.

To overcome this barrier, it is important to examine any problems you are faced with from many angles. To begin, assume your understanding of the problem is correct. Now, assume your understanding is incorrect – what does this mean? Then, view the problem from the perspective of a third party; how would someone else view the problem? When you do this, you may find that the nature of the problem you are trying to solve has changed – opening up the possibility of many different solutions.

Tactic 2: Use different thought processes to generate ideas and solutions

Avoid over-using the same old thought process you have always used. A thought process is the way ideas suggest other ideas to you in a sequence. First, get familiar with the thought process you typically use yourself. It may be that you are a highly analytical thinker, or perhaps you are more instinctual or intuitive.

When you have figured out how you naturally tend to think, start to observe how other people think. Choose a suitable third party whose thinking you are familiar with, and apply their thought process to your task or problem. Ask how would that person tackle this problem or what would they do in this situation? This frees you up to think like someone else, which can help you explore new lines of enquiry on a particular problem and come up with innovative solutions. Using this approach, you can also develop scenarios for how your idea might be received by different stakeholders down the line, and prepare responses that drive towards a suitable solution.

Tactic 3: Avoid

Tactic 3: Avoid ‘Functional Fixity’

lsquo;Functional Fixity

Tactic 3: Avoid ‘Functional Fixity’


‘Functional Fixity’ is the inability to look beyond how an object works or is designed to function. With this way of thinking, spoons can only be used to stir or drink liquids – but never to spread butter; or paperclips can only be used to fix sheets of paper together – but not to collect magnets or open locks. By being aware of ‘Functional Fixity’, and the danger this approach holds for creative thinkers, it can open your mind to new ways of looking at, and using, objects. This can have a positive impact on your creative mind, and can drive you further in your quest for creative solutions.

Tactic 4: Change your daily routine

Doing the same thing every day, over and over again, can have a detrimental effect on your creativity. The changes you make don’t have to be dramatic, as even small changes can shake things up and lead to a burst of creativity. For example, try changing where you work a couple of times each week. This might mean working in a conference room instead of at your desk, or in a coffee shop around the corner. Even if you are doing the same work, doing it in new surroundings can help you discover things you may have overlooked, or see problems in a different light.

You could also try changing the order in which you tackle your work every day. So if you usually leave your most important tasks until the afternoon, try doing them in the morning instead. Alternatively, try working at a different time of day, if that’s possible, or even changing the agenda or format of regular meetings. Once you have tried out a few new routines, maintain the ones that are working for you. But remember to change things up again when your creativity next takes a dip.

Tactic 5: Take creative risks

It takes courage to be the first person to think of an idea or a new solution. You can’t be sure if it will work, or be accepted, or even if people will find it ridiculous. Nevertheless, the ability to take risks goes hand in hand with innovation and problem solving. So be brave, put your ideas out there, and keep looking at new ways of doing things and of overcoming barriers to creativity.

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Cathal Melinn and Kevin Reid

Cathal Melinn is Digital Marketing Manager at Digital Marketing Institute.

  • 13 years’ experience in search and display
  • Worked at Yahoo! Search in 2005 as a Senior Search Strategist for the UK Financial Services vertical
  • Moved to the world of agency in 2010 as Head of Search and Online Media for five years 
  • Currently working at the Digital Marketing Institute as a Digital Marketing Manager
  • Previous clients include Apple, Vodafone, Expedia, Virgin, Universal Music Group, Amazon, Compare the Market, and HSBC

Kevin Reid is CEO of Personal Skills Training, Senior Coach at Kevin J Reid Coaching, Co-founder and Communications Director of The Counsel.ie, and Lead Collaborator of LeitrimMade.com.

  • A consummate and skillful international communications trainer, facilitator, and coach
  • Has over 15 years of learning development experience with individuals, teams, and entire organizations
  • Has facilitated communications workshops and training across numerous sectors in Ireland, the UK, Europe, America, and Africa

By the end of this topic, you should be able to:

  • Compare techniques for enhancing creative thinking skills.
  • Analyse strategies to improve problem-solving skills in the workplace

    The following pieces of content from the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library have been chosen to offer additional material that you might find interesting or insightful.

    You can find more information and content like this on the Digital Marketing Institute's Membership Library

    You will not be assessed on this content.


      Creativity Skills
      Cathal Melinn and Kevin Reid
      Skills Expert

      Creative skills aren’t just for artists and designers! Everyone can learn to be more creative. In fact, the ability to think creatively is an invaluable skill in today’s workplace.

      With the help of Cathal Melinn, you will learn how to enhance your creative thinking skills – which should help you generate new ideas, find innovative solutions to problems, and develop new products and services. You will also learn how to remove barriers to creativity and the importance of persevering when your ideas fail.

      When it comes to tackling specific workplace difficulties, you will be introduced to a six-step method you can use to solve problems. And you’ll learn about the skills you need to cultivate in order to be an effective problem-solver.

      You will also turn your creative attention to the art of giving presentations. You will discover how to create and structure an effective presentation, and the preparations you need to make in advance, as well as useful tips on how to deliver an engaging presentation and how to hold a Q&A session at the end.