That Thing in your Head Holding you Back — 4

So What if I told You the Things Limiting your Mind are the Limits of your Mind?

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If at First, you Don’t Succeed, Try Try Again… Unless you Run Out of Money

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  1. The attempt is unsuccessful for the new problem.
  2. You realise a new method is needed to solve the current problem.
  3. This is exemplified in the previous example; the researchers’ prior experience makes them more prone to testing the old strain of protein for a vaccine than trying something completely new. After failing to find promising results, however, they would transition away from this mental set to research different solutions. Then comes the last main psychological barrier for problem-solving: functional fixedness.

I’ll Stop Judging Things when Pigs Fly!

Functional fixedness is a psychological effect that limits people to thinking about ideas only in the way they are typically used. This leads to firm preconceptions about the possibilities of innovative, new ideas. In the title above, the functional fixedness is about the nature of pigs not being able to fly. From repetitive cultural and personal experiences, people develop firm expectations about the conventional uses of any idea. This is especially harmful when someone is trying to solve a new problem. The solution to a problem could be to design a new idea/object for that specific problem, but it would be easier to use existing ideas/objects in a previously unheard-of manner. The challenge is that functional fixedness makes it hard to find creative, new uses of existing ideas.

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  • Using an old solution can be easy, but it may not be the best for new problems;
  • Creating new uses of old things can be hard, but also very efficient;
  • And Problems aren’t always in a nice form. You have to focus on the right details.
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Madhav Malhotra

Madhav Malhotra

Cofounder at The Plastic Shift. Learning how to create a sustainable planet. Linkedin: