This morning I was busy doing 101 things and I quickly entered my garage (which is attached to my kitchen and functions as a multipurpose storage space and pantry). Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that one of the shelving units had been moved and was facing a different direction. I stopped for a minute and felt that something was ‘off,’ quickly moved it back to its original place and then ran off to continue what I was doing.
But something wasn’t right. Something was lurking at me, eating up my headspace, and I couldn’t shirk it off. I forced myself to stop what I was doing and ask – am I so close minded, am I so stuck, so fixed on the way that the garage shelf was originally placed, that I can’t even see the benefits of it being in a new direction? Why did I have to put the shelf back to the way it was? The new angle, in fact, did have benefits, including that it now cleared a bigger path for walking and it no longer partially obstructed the view of the door. But at the time I couldn’t see it. I had to put it back the way it was and assume that I had paced it best the first time. But had I?
Fixedness is the tendency to see objects only in a traditional way or use them the way they've been traditionally used. That narrow mind-set is what gets us stuck in certain behavior patterns and prevents the flow of creative ideas. The ability to break through fixedness allows us to see things differently, to appreciate changes and to welcome challenges. When we see something out of context, or in a different formation, and get that feeling that something is off, it’s probably because we’re working off an assumption that the way it was is the way it will always have to be. By allowing ourselves to embrace change and overcome fixedness, we will be much more comfortable and ready to try out new ideas when we see them.
COVID has really helped me internalize these lessons. There have been so many new rules (masks, social distancing) yet at the same time, there are no rules. If there is no school, do my kids really need to be up at a certain time? Do I have to give them baths at night or can they be done after lunch? Can pancakes be a dinner or are they only limited to breakfast? By rethinking the way you’ve always done things and asking – why have I done them this way? does it matter if I switch? are their benefits to changing – you are on your way to breaking fixedness!
For more info on the SIT method of creativity, check out Drew Boyd's innovation in Practice Blog https://drewboyd.com/blog/