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Barriers To Creativity

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 barrier


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.

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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”.

It’s basically a fear of rejection, criticism, or other repercussions and as a result, limits your ability to explore new ideas and perspectives. This can prevent you from pushing the boundaries of your imagination.

Self-censorship can play with your mind and emotional well-being. It can lead you to feel anxious and frustrated and give you an overall lack of self-esteem.

It’s important that you are aware of your self-censorship and that you plan for ways to overcome it, either by talking to others or seeking professional counseling or guidance. Try and feel positive about expressing one’s creativity.


Micromanagement stifles a person’s ability to be creative as micromanagers provide too much detail related to how a particular task or problem should be tackled.

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

It limits an employee’s ability to work and think independently. Constant monitoring and direction is likely to make people feel less inclined to use their own initiative or come up with new ideas.

Micromanagement is generally not a great thing to do as it takes away employee ownership and engagement in their work. This can ultimately lead to low motivation and poor job satisfaction which normally leads to have a negative impact on an employee’s creativity.


Overthinking can generally lead to analysis paralysis. You become so focused on analyzing and evaluating every aspect of a problem or idea that you become unable to make any positive moves in a forward direction.

It can make you get stuck on one particular line of thought, blocking out new possibilities and perspectives. Making it harder to come up with new and creative ideas

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

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

Creativity Myths

Creativity myths act as barriers through their power to shape everyday behavior. They can lead to misconceptions and misunderstandings about what creativity is and how it can be fostered.

An example would be people thinking that creativity can only be performed by so-called “creative types” and therefore immediately setting up a barrier to themselves being creative having not labeled themselves as such a “creative type”.

Believing in myths such as the example given above can severely limit understanding of what creativity is and how it can be developed. Preventing people from achieving their own creative potential.

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

Our Learnings And Habits

Things that we have learned over many years and our everyday routines and habits can be a barrier to creativity. We do things the “way they have always been done”. Try to think about a recent time when you did do something truly new. For most of us, this might be a difficult thing to do.

Rule & Traditions

Regulations, policies, rules, traditions, and guides can often lead us to do something a particular way. Bureaucratic structures and highly specialized roles can limit visionary thought and ideas. When people are expected to behave in a particular way it can be difficult for the individuals to come up with new ideas.

Image Risks

Image risks are when 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 aside each and every day for creative efforts.


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.

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 behavior 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 judge what is right or wrong and above all don’t be afraid of looking like a fool.

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! 



Mark A. Runco, ‎Steven R. Pritzker · 1999, Encyclopedia of Creativity – Volume 1

Alexander Hiam · 1998, The Manager’s Pocket Guide to Creativity

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