In the early 1920s Ford found a way to recycle waste from his automobile factories. The process took scrap wood chips and made them into charcoal briquettes. Kingsford® Charcoal was born, a company that leads it’s industry today, enjoying 80% market share and turning over a million tons of wood chips into charcoal every year.
How did Ford make the leap from making cars to making charcoal? The same way de Mestral invented velcro and Spencer Silver invented the sticky note. They overcame the 3 big mental blocks adults have that stifle their creativity:
1. Method Fixation: All children are creative; they have to be. Everyday they encounter situations they’ve never experienced before and they must develop a way to negotiate them. However, once they find a suitable solution, their brains record it for the “next time.” As successful experiences pile up, the need for creativity decreases and we rely more and more on “what has always worked before.” We stop looking for a better way.
2. Function Fixation: Like methods, we assign the same rigidness to the function of objects and ideas. Our brains learn that hammers are for hammering nails, so we don’t think that they could be used as paperweights, nutcrackers, anchors or ice axes.
3. Scope Fixation: Once again, the survival part of our brains is conditioned to repeat solutions that have worked in the past, using the tools we used in the past. This predisposes us to a narrow set of possible solutions, all of which usually fit nicely in the problem’s original category. As a result, we’re so close to a problem we fail to make “unnatural” connections – like automobile scraps and charcoal.
We were all creative kids. As adults, we just have to unlearn a few things and rekindle our imaginations.
Where does your creativity stall? How do you get it rolling again?