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Cultural Communication and Creativity

LDR 630
Alex Bondar
August, 7
, 2014

Cultural Communication and Creativity
Organizational communication and learning organizations cannot occur unless the
employees develop together with the organization. In order to understand how creativity and
open communication can lead to problem solving, one must fist delve into the impediments
or obstacles that stand in the way of creativity. According to Whetten and Cameron (2002),
there are for major conceptual blocks that act as obstacles to employee growth within
organizations. These blocks are constancy, commitment, compression, and complacency. The
analytical model of thinking, which is the standard in most organizations, does little to help
employees overcome these conceptual blocks. According to research by authors such as
Whetten, it is necessary to allow employees to embrace and develop creative thinking
methods. Creative thinking, allows for a deeper analysis of the problem, and allows the
employees to break out of the box and address problems with ingenuity.
Conceptual Blocks
The first conceptual block as determined by Whetten and Cameron (2002) is
Constancy. Constancy is defined by Whetten and Cameron (2002) as when an individual
becomes wedded to one way of looking at a problem or to using one approach to define,
describe, or solve it (p. 168). Two specific examples identified by Whetton and Cameron of
how constancy can block out creative thinking are vertical thinking and a single-thinking
language. Vertical thinking refers to defining a problem in a single way and then pursuing
that definition without deviation until a solution is reached (Whetton and Cameron, 2002, p.
168). A single-thinking language, according to Whetton and Cameron (2002) refers to the
theory that most people think in words-that is, they think about a problem and its solution in
terms of verbal language (p. 169). However, Whetton and Cameron argue that there are
other thought languages available, such as nonverbal or symbolic languages, sensory
imagery, feelings and emotions, and visual imagery (2002, p. 169). The authors argue that
more languages will allow for greater creative thinking when looking for a solution to a
The second conceptual block as determined by Whetton and Cameron (2002) is
commitment. According to Whetton and Cameron (2002) commitment is when individuals
become committed to a particular point of view, definition, or solution; it is likely that they
will follow through on that commitment (p. 170). This can lead to perceptual stereotyping
and ignoring commonalities when look for a solution to a problem. In the research done by
Whetton and Cameron (2002) perceptual stereotyping is certain preconceptions formed on
the basis of past experience determine how an individual defines a situation and this is bad
because perceptual stereotyping helps organize problems on the basis of a limited amount of
data (p. 171). In addition, according to Whetton and Cameron ignoring commonalities is a
failure to identify similarities among seemingly disparate pieces of data (2002, p. 171). In
other words, this is the ability to overanalyze and overcomplicate a given problem, making
finding of the solution harder than it needs to be.
The third conceptual block as determined by Whetton and Cameron (2002) is
compression. Whetton and Cameron (2002) describe compression as looking too narrowly at
a problem, screening out too much relevant data, and making assumptions that inhibit
problem solution (p. 172). Two examples of compression provided by Whetton and
Cameron are artificial constraints and separating figure from ground. According to Whetton
and Cameron artificial constraints are boundaries that sometimes people place around
problems, or constrain their approach to them, in such a way that the problems become
impossible to solve (2002, p. 172). This can otherwise be stated as the inability to separate
the important from the unimportant (Whetton and Cameron, 2002 p.173). Artificial
constraints are blocks from within, and this needs to be overcome in creative thinking.
Separating figure from ground is the ability to constrain problems sufficiently so that they
can be solved (Whetton and Cameron, 2002, p. 174). It is the individuals responsibility to
understand what the true problem is.
The fourth conceptual block as determined by Whetton and Cameron (2002) is
complacency. As defined by Whetton and Cameron (2002) complacency is when some
conceptual blocks occur not because of poor thinking habits or inappropriate assumptions but
because of fear, ignorance, insecurity, or just plain mental laziness (p. 175). Two specific
examples of complacency provided by Whetton and Cameron in their research was
noninquisitiveness and bias against thinking (2002, p. 175-176). Noninquisitiveness is the
inability to solve problems due to unwillingness to ask questions, obtain information, or
search for data (Whetton and Cameron, 2002, p. 175). This, for example, can be due to
feeling emotions of insecurity according to Whetton and Cameron. Bias against thinking
refers to an inclination to avoid doing cognitive work and this is partly a cultural bias as
well as a personal one (Whetton and Cameron, 2002, p. 176). According to Whetton and
Cameron this is a common conceptual block for western cultures, (2002, p. 176).
Analytical Problem Solving
The analytical problem solving model is the typical method that we encounter within
organizations used to solve problems. According to Whetton and Cameron (2002) this leads
to implementing a marginally acceptable or merely satisfactory solution instead of the
optimal or ideal solution due to the tendency to select the first reasonable solution (p.
160). The analytical problem solving method can be broken down into four main parts: define
the problem, generate alternative solutions, evaluate and select an alternative, and implement
and follow up on the solution. However, the research done by Whetton and Cameron suggests
that there are many constraints on the analytical problem solving model. Some of these
constraints to the analytical problem solving model include that there is seldom consensus
as to the definition of the problem, few of the possible alternatives are usually known, limited
information about each alternative is usually available, and acceptance by others of the
solution is not always forthcoming (Whetton and Cameron, 2002, p. 165).
Creative Problem Solving
Whetton and Cameron propose the creative problem solving model as the best way to
overcome conceptual blocks and induce creative thinking when searching for a solution to a
problem. They state in their research that creative problem solving is a skill that can be
developed (Whetton and Cameron, 2002, p. 178). The creative problem solving method also
consists of four stages that include: the preparation stage, the incubation stage, the
illumination stage and the verification stage. According to Whetton and Cameron (2002),
the primary difference between skill full creative problem solving and analytical problem
solving is in how the first step is approached. Creative problem solves are more flexible and
fluent in data gathering, problem definition, alternative generation, and examination of
options (p. 178). This leads to higher mental activity which leads to the next stage of
incubation. In the incubation stage the individual combines unrelated thoughts in pursuit of a
solution (Whetton and Cameron, 2002, p. 178). The third stage, the illumination, occurs
when an insight is recognized and a creative solution is articulated (Whetton and Cameron,
2002, p. 178). Finally, is the verification stage which compares the creative solution against
some acceptable standard of comparison. According to Whetton and Cameron, all this allows
for less constraint when coming up with a solution for a problem using the creative problem
solving model.
Promoting Communication based creativity
The creative problem solving model can be used to induce creativity within
organizations and make their communication more open. By applying the creative problem
solving model leaders can make organizational communication more open and receptive of
new ideas and creativity. The CPS model, according to Wheeler allows for brainstorming
and creativity to form naturally which can allow idea generation to occur under any existing
organizational culture. Leaders must allow for communication take place freely as this leads
to the flow of new ideas and increased creativity within an organization. Finally the leader
should ferment creative problem solving in the organization by allowing implementation of
the solutions in order for the employees to feel empowered and be creative again in the
Action Plan
My personal action plan is to develop greater creative thinking powers in response to
overcoming conceptual blocks that inhibit me from achieving the optimal solution to a
problem. I plan to utilize the creative problem solving model in order to understand what
conceptual blocks stand in my way of being creative. I believe, my greatest conceptual block
is commitment to ignoring commonalities and stereotyping based on past experiences which
are symptoms of the commitment block. The action that I will take to overcome this
conceptual block will be to use advocacy and inquiry. Through inquiry I plan to question my
past stereotypes and my own habits. Then through advocacy, I will make myself mental
recommendations for overcoming the commitment block. This will mean that I will have to
challenge some of my previous worldviews and change individual habits, in order to succeed.
Personal Experiences
An example of a personal experience that I had with creative problem solving was
when I had to come up with a new document for the Office of International Studies, at Siena
Heights University where I work as a graduate assistant. I was assigned with the duty to
create and develop a new document for students going to study abroad that will allow for
them to receive credits for their coursework taken at the foreign institution. Instead, of
starting from scratch, I searched for examples of such documents from other universities.
Finally, after found a few good examples, I was able to create a similar document for the
Office of International Studies at Siena Heights University. If I would have not used creative
thinking, I would have been stuck trying to build something from scratch making it harder for
me to complete my task successfully.
The four conceptual blocks; constancy, commitment, compression and complacency
identified by Whetton and Cameron are lucid obstacles to our creative thinking. The
analytical problem solving model, does little to overcome these conceptual blocks due to its
tendency to choose the first satisfactory solution to a problem that will take the shortest
amount of time to implement. The problem with this is that little time is spent on analyzing
the true problem and thinking about the optimal solution. In contrast, the creative problem
solving model, takes time to gather data and brainstorm for the optimal solution to a given
problem. It allows you to think of different ways and methods to solve a problem before you
act on solving the problem at hand. In conclusion, the creative problem solving model allows
for greater open communication to occur within organizations which leads to ingenuity and
increased creativity when solving problems.

Whetten, D. A, & Cameron, K. M. (2002). Ch.3: Solving problems analytically and
creatively. Retrieved from
Wheeler, R. (n.d.). The History of Creative Problem Solving. . Retrieved from