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Blocks to Creative Problem Solving

Perceptual Blocks
Perceptual blocks can be thought of as obstacles that prevent the problem
solver from clearly perceiving either the problem itself or the information
needed to solve the problem. Using the work of Adams (1979) and Simberg
(1964), we can generate the following list of perceptual blocks:

1. Stereotyping and labeling: You simply cannot see clearly if you are
controlled by preconceptions.

2. Difficulty in isolating the problem: This is the case where the individual
is unable to seperate the real problem from related problems.

3. Difficulty caused by narrowing the problem too much: The block usually
occurs when little or no attention is paid to the factors/environment
surrounding the problem.

4. An inability to define the terms: Quite simply, if you do not understand

the problem, then you cant work on it.

5. Failure to utilize all of the senses when observing: Multiple senses may
be helpful in solving a problem.

6. Saturation: Sensory overload results when we are presented with more

environmental stimuli than can be adequately processed by the IPS.

7. Difficulty in seeing remote relationships: In this instance the individual

lacks the ability to see that a solution in one system may also have
applications in another system.

8. Failure to distinguish between cause and effect:

A clearcut distinction between cause and effect, does not always exist,
therefore the creative problem solver must learn not to jump to conclusions
regarding causality.

9. Failure to investigate the obvious: Once we have become accustomed to

seeing particular situations and problems in a certain way, it becomes
increasingly difficult to see them otherwise.
The most comprehensive procedure for overcoming perceptual blocks,
thereby increasing perceptual awareness, is a series of exercises offered by
the gestalt therapists: Pens, Heffenline, and Goodman (1977).

Cultural Blocks
Cultural blocks or inhibitions can fall under several different kinds of
conformity or social influences (Rokeach, 1981). First, the individual who is
a member of a group may be influenced by group situations. Second, a
member of a group may be influenced by another member with prestige.
Last, one member may influence the judgment of another member (in this
case there is not a prestige effect). Whereas conformity requires that we act
in a certain way by custom, creativity requires that the present way be
challenged and,if necessary, changed.

Some specific cultural inhibitions, according to Adams (1979) and Simbeng

(1964) are:

1. Playfulness is for children only, and serious problem solving requires a

serious attitude.

2. Closely associated with these (mis)conceptions is the assumption that

humor has no place in problem solving.

3. The desire to conform to an adopted pattern and the uncomfortable

feeling of being different.

4. The value judgment that inquisitiveness and skepticism are undesirable


5. Overemphasis on cooperation or on competition.

6. Too much faith in statistics: The major problem here is that people dont
look beyond the statistic.

7. Too much faith in reason and logic.

8. The belief that indulging in fantasy and reflection is worthless and lazy.

Emotional Blocks
Emotional inhibitions to creativity usually result from past traumatic
experiences and/or the stress of everyday living. Probably the root of most
emotional blocks is insecurity. Regardless of whether it is an insecurity of
self, life, parents, job, death, unknown, or new situations, it can still be
regarded as a fear or anxiety that is just as effective in inhibiting creativity
as are perceptual and cultural inhibitions.

Again, using the work of Adams (1979) and Simberg (1964), we can derive
the following list of emotional inhibitions:

1. Fear of making a mistake or of making a fool of oneself. This is

particularly the case if the individual is new to the group.

2. Fear of taking a risk. In this instance the

individual is seeking preservation of the status quo. (It may manifest itself
as a pathological desire for security.)

3. Rigidity of thinking, or functional fixedness. Everyone possesses

opinions, prejudices, and preferences for certain methods, processes, and

4. Over motivated to succeed quickly. When the individual does not

immediately see a solution to a problem, he may become frustrated and
either give up or continue to pound his head against a stone wall.

5. Fear of authority. This may often manifest itself in the form of a fear of
supervisors and a distrust for colleagues and subordinates. Often the causes
of such are the result of a lack of individual selfconfidence or a fear of

6. Lack of drive. This may take two different forms. The individual may lack
drive in carrying a problem through to completion and testing it or in
putting the solution to work.

7. Reality and fantasy. The individual needs to be able to control

imagination and have complete access to it. Creativity requires the
manipulation and recombination of experience; otherwise it is limiting.