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What Blocks People From Creativity and Creative Thinking? - HRDQ

What Blocks People From Creativity and Creative Thinking?

One of the most essential skills for solving problems in business is creativity. At the same time, our workspace is rarely the first thing that comes to mind when we think of creativity, innovation, and inspiration.

If you feel blocked from creative thinking or your team is struggling to think outside the box when solving problems, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the most common causes of creative blocks.

Once you understand why people are being blocked from creativity, you can then come up with a solution that will encourage innovative thought in the office.

Let's take a look at what blocks people from creativity and what you can do to overcome creative blocks in the workplace.

Table of Contents

What Is a Creative Block?

When someone is creatively blocked, they don't have access to their creative impulses or modes of thinking. It's common for people in creative professions to face creative blocks periodically, but it can also occur in the office.

Dealing With a Creative Block

Creativity is essential for coming up with solutions to unusual problems and strategizing the future plans of your brand. When you or your team is facing a creative block, it can be a serious obstacle to your goals and desired outcomes.

What Are The Benefits of Having a Creative Workplace?

A creative mindset in the office can produce many valuable benefits to any organization. Not only can it increase productivity and enhance problem-solving in the office, but it can also boost morale and improve your team's ability to work together.

A Creative Workplace

When your workplace promotes and encourages creativity, there can also be long-term benefits. Over time, you'll find that engagement and interaction in the workplace are improved and will lead to an increased ability to attract and retain top-notch employees.

What Blocks People From Creativity?

Dealing With Creativity Block

Anyone can experience a creative block, and it can happen for numerous reasons. Let's look at some of the most common causes of creative blocks to help you identify the best possible solution to your innovative drought.

1. Mental Blocks

In some cases, people will face a creative block when they are stuck in familiar ways of looking at things. When facing a problem, they fail to see a number of viable options because they are trapped by their own thinking.

Dealing With a Mental Block

On the other hand, a person can have so much invested in a project or problem that they freeze up when trying to come up with a solution. If they feel that the stakes are high, they might be unwilling, at some level, to even entertain potential creative solutions or take the first steps towards completing a project.

2. Being Too Routinized

Having the right habits and routines is an essential part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a productive work life. At the same time, having too strict a routine can limit an individual's creative thinking and expression.

Employee Feeling Too Routinized

We all have comfort zones that help us feel stable and safe; there isn't anything inherently wrong with that. However, experiencing positive stress or eustress can result in several positive feelings, including inspiration, flow, motivation, and creativity.

If you are dealing with a creative block or you feel your team is lacking in creative thinking, it's possible that you could all use a soft push outside your respective comfort zones. 

3. Being Too Serious

Being Too Serious In The Workplace

Some people on your team might be perfectly creative in their home life and hobbies but struggle to think creatively when in the office. There is certainly a focus on consistency, conformity, and professionalism in the office, and some individuals might feel this is counter to how they express themselves creatively.

4. Not Having Creative Outlets

Employee Lacking Creative Outlets

Creativity is a lot like a muscle, and it needs to be exercised to display its full strength. If you feel that creative thinking is lacking in your business, it's possible that your team doesn't have creative outlets they use either in their professional or personal lives.

If you're looking for ways to tap into your employees' creative processes, check out our assessment entitled Encouraging Innovation Through 5 Key Conversations.

5. Personal Problems

Dealing With Personal Problems

When a person is thinking creatively, it means that they have extra energy to burn. It is a skill that demands focus. If someone is dealing with personal problems– whether it be divorce, a death in the family, or medical issues– they don't have a lot of mental energy to put towards thinking innovatively.

6. Not Separating Creation From the Critique

We all know that not all ideas are good ideas. However, constantly redlining thoughts before they even fully emerge from your mind disrupts your ability to think creatively.

Holding a Brainstorming Session

Expressing oneself creatively and critiquing the product of creativity are two separate steps. If you feel your team is creatively blocked because they are afraid their ideas will get shot down right away, consider holding brainstorming sessions that focus on creating and collecting ideas before having a separate session to critique and redline those ideas.

7. Burnout

When a person constantly feels overwhelmed and swamped, it can lead to the form of exhaustion known as burnout. If you or anyone on your team has been dealing with physical, mental, or emotional stress in an excessive and prolonged way, it can result in feeling completely drained.

It's possible that the creative block you're facing is due to being burned out. When your body and mind are firing on all cylinders constantly, there isn't a lot of excess energy for creative thinking or innovative ideas.

Burnt Out Employee

There are many things you can do to overcome burnout, including:

  • Establishing a daily routine that creates better work-life balance
  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Starting and maintaining an exercise regime
  • Building breaks into your schedule
  • Taking time to relax and care for your mental health
  • Making sure you're getting adequate sleep and eating a healthy diet

8. Poor Communication

Poor Team Communication

When it seems like you're struggling with creativity blocks from an entire team, it's possible that it has to do with a communication breakdown. There will inevitably be some tension between teams when working together, but this kind of issue can throw a wrench in everyone's ability to think creatively.

If you're wondering how to improve communication skills in the workplace to overcome creative blocks, check out these eight activities to boost workplace communication.

9. Being Afraid of Taking Risks or Being Wrong

Team Making a Decision

If you or your team is afraid of making mistakes, taking risks, or being wrong, it can seriously hamper creativity. Creativity is an active and positive process that can get completely derailed if someone is unwilling to make even the slightest error.

10. Perfectionism

If you have it in your head that anything you produce or say needs to be perfect, you'll likely hold yourself back from the ability to be creative. When you need a creative solution to a problem in the workplace, being a perfectionist will leave you drawing a blank.

Team Working Through a Problem

To overcome this, you have to separate the tasks of thinking creatively and critiquing the resulting ideas.

11. Believing They Aren't the Creative Type

Sometimes, people are creatively blocked because they don't believe themselves to be creative people. It's common to associate creativity with being highly skilled at drawing or a musical instrument, pushing some people away from recognizing their creativity.

Employee Struggling With Creative Thinking

Creativity is like a muscle that needs to be built and strengthened. When an individual goes through their whole life assuming they aren't creative, it simply means they haven't started working to develop their creative muscles yet.

12. Not Knowing What's Expected

Employee Unaware of What to Do

Your workplace may suffer from a creativity drought simply because people aren't clear about what is expected of them. If this is the case, there's a good chance your team is more concerned with looking busy than coming up with creative solutions to problems. By clearly outlining the expectations in the office and outwardly encouraging creative thinking, you might find a shift in the tone of the office over time.

Tips For Boosting Creative Thinking in the Workplace

Creatively Thinking Employee

Understanding why you or your team is creatively blocked is an essential step to solving the problem. However, there are some general tactics you can take to boost creativity in the office.

1. Establish a Clear Vision

One important step you can take to boost creativity in the workplace is to establish a clear company mission and vision. Beyond that, you should reiterate these ideas often and ensure that your employees know your brand's strategies.

Employee Provided a Clear Vision

Doing so can help to overcome the issue of your team feeling left in the dark and unaware of what's expected of them. When you share information with them about the goals and mission of the company, it's much more possible for them to put their head in the game and be invested enough to offer creative solutions to problems.

2. Promote Continuous Learning

Creativity is something that can essentially dry up if you aren't learning new things and taking in novel information. For this reason, it's a good idea to encourage your employees (and yourself!) to engage in activities that offer new methods and knowledge.

Team Continuously Learning

You can help your team continue their learning journey by supporting their efforts to attend conferences, events, and classes related to your field.

3. Bring in Speakers

Industry Expert Speaker

One great way to encourage creativity is to hear new ideas and perspectives. To help boost creativity in the office, consider bringing in some speakers that are industry experts who have new, innovative ideas. This could even become a monthly event that occurs to help keep everyone's creative juices flowing.

4. Move to a Different Environment

Working in a Different Environment

No matter how much you love your desk or conference room, sometimes being in a familiar work environment can keep you locked in the same modes of thinking. If you feel like you or your team is uninspired, the solution might be as simple as moving to a different space to think about the topic at hand.

5. Provide a Stimulating Atmosphere

The environment we spend our time in significantly impacts our mood, and some atmospheres are more likely to promote creative thinking than others.

Stimulating Work Atmosphere

Consider making modifications to your office when it comes to the lighting, color, temperature, and sound. For example, if your office is constantly humming with activity, consider offering a quiet place where your team (or you!) can focus on the problem at hand.

6. Encourage Individuality

Before people feel comfortable offering creative ideas, they need to know that their thoughts are valued. In the office, it's easy for people to become part of the pack rather than think and act individually, particularly if they believe this is what the company culture dictates.

Leader Encouraging Individuality

If they realize that you appreciate and hear the insights they offer, though, you'll find creativity in the office improves overall.

7. Consider Implementing Flexible Work Hours

Employee Working Flexible Hours

If you feel that creativity in the office is lacking because your team is dealing with a lot of personal problems, it's possible that implementing flexible work hours could help to relieve some of their stress, offer them better work-life balance, and reduce the occurrence of burnout. If flexible scheduling would help your team have the mental space they need to think creatively, this could be well worth the effort.

8. Act on Good Ideas

One of the best ways to encourage your team to be creative is to act on the good ideas that come up during brainstorming sessions and acknowledge the positive aspects of other ideas.

Team Acting on a Good Idea

When someone comes up with a good idea, implement it and wait to see the positive outcomes. If there is a beneficial result from their concept, share it with the team to give them credit. You'll find that when you publicly commend a good idea, more solid creative ideas will start coming forward.

Boosting Creativity in the Workplace: Final Thoughts

When we think of creativity, we often think of people as artists, musicians, and inventors. The truth of the matter is, though, that everyone is creative. When we can harness our creativity in the workplace, it can lead to better problem-solving skills, increased flexibility, better team performance, and more.

Highly Creative Employee

If you're looking for learning instruments to help you tap into your creative potential, check out our Second Edition of the Breakthrough Creativity Profile. Created by Dr. Lynne Levesque, a creativity expert, this tool is based on the well-known personality theory of Carl Jung.

Do you have any experiences with these potential causes of creativity block? If so, how did you handle it? Was there a particular strategy you employed? Be sure to leave all your thoughts and comments down below! We'd love to hear about your experiences and will gladly get a conversation going on the topic. 

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.