Barriers To Creativity

By Martin Gilliard

Barriers to creativity can prevent us from unlocking the creative potential that we are all capable of.

Being aware of the barriers should prepare you for recognising when they occur and arm you with the potential to break past them.

a wire fence

(Photo Credit: Caucas')

Barriers To Creativity Include:

Functional fixedness

Functional fixedness is a term used by psychologists and means to only see the obvious ways of looking at a problem. 

It's where the individual does not leave their comfort zone when thinking about solutions to a problem domain.

This has much to do with an individual's past experience. Locked in perceptions make it difficult to look at a problem from different viewpoints. If you are locked down to a particular way of doing something then it is very difficult to come up with new and creative solutions.

It's only seeing one "right" answer to a problem.

comfort zone dial

(Photo Credit: Trevor Blake)

Self Censorship

Self censorship is that inner voice that holds you back and tries to prevent you from making a fool of yourself or looking stupid.

It’s the negative thoughts that come into your mind, such as “that will never work”.

self censorship

(Photo Credit: IsaacMao)

Micro Management

Micro management stifles a person’s ability to be creative as micro managers provide too much detail related to how a particular task or problem should be tackled.

This reduces the ability for the person to think for themselves and add their own creative flair.

two watches - micro management

(Photo Credit: Kheel Center, Cornell University)

Over Thinking

Over thinking about a problem or task uses the logical conscious side of our mind.

Often creativity comes from the subconscious mind so rather than over thinking it might be wise to go for a walk or simply start daydreaming.

over thinking

(Photo Credit: @boetter)

Creativity Myths

Creativity myths act as barriers through their power to shape everyday behaviour. 

Visit the creativity myths page to learn about some of the common myths and why they are not true.

Image Risks

Image risks are where people worry about the impression that people will have of them after suggesting an idea.

If an individual’s role does not specifically call for creativity or innovation then they believe that co-workers will think negatively of them if they try and come up with better ways to do things.

It’s the thought of making someone angry by initiating change that upsets the status quo.

Lack Of Time

Lack of time and / or opportunity. People often feel that they are too busy with their day-to-day efforts to have time to focus on being creative. Resolve this by setting some planned time a side each and every day for creative efforts.

a watch

Lack Of Sleep

Lack of sleep not only forms barriers to creativity but to most other things too!

Try and lead a healthy well balanced life with lots of exercise and water and healthy nutrition.

You’re more likely to generate ideas if you are well rested and feel great about yourself.


Criticism: by others can off put you from proceeding any further with your ideas. Try and dismiss negative thinkers or win them over by demonstrating the validity of your idea with a prototype.


Culture can be described as learned behavior patterns that are characteristic of members of a society and which are not a result of biological inheritance.

Exposure to some cultural behavior patterns can act as a barrier to creativity.

(Photo Credit: tpholland)

Rules, policies and procedures

Rules, policies and procedures: If the organization that you work in has lots of rules, policies and procedures then these can sometimes stifle creativity due to the bureaucracy that they create. If you can’t advance your project forward without five signatures then you will find it difficult to maintain momentum.

Conforming to established patterns of behaviour and resisting change can act as a barrier.

Fear Of Rejection

Just having that underlying fear that others will reject your ideas can be a barrier to creativity. Work with your passions, enjoy your creative moments and don't let others put you off.

Believe in yourself and your ideas. Have confidence that your ideas and perceptions will work. Don't let others to judge what is right or wrong and above all don't be afraid of looking like a fool.

(Photo Credit: KatLevPhoto)

Do any of the above barriers apply to you personally? Recognizing your own barriers is half of the battle, as once you have recognized what it is that is blocking your creative flare you can begin to put a plan of action in place in order to overcome your obstacles. Good luck! 

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