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Functional Fixedness

Functional Fixedness


Functional Fixedness is a cognitive bias that limits a person’s ability to see the full range of functions or uses of an object or concept beyond its usual purpose. It also hinders creative problem-solving and innovation by restricting individuals from exploring alternative ways of utilising an object or concept beyond its original intended function.


Firstly, Functional Fixedness can be seen in various everyday situations. For instance, a person may struggle to open a tightly sealed jar because they are only trying to use their hands. Ignoring the potential of using a rubber band or a cloth to gain a better grip.


Another example could be someone who struggles to repurpose an old bookshelf into a unique piece of furniture. They are fixed on the idea that it can only be used for storing books.


A study by Karl Duncker in 1945 demonstrated that individuals who were presented with a box of tacks, a candle, and also a matchbox struggled to solve a problem that required using the box as a platform to create a stable light source. Many participants failed to realise that the box could be emptied and used as a platform.


Finally, Functional Fixedness is a cognitive bias that limits individuals from considering alternative functions or uses of objects or concepts beyond their traditional purpose, hindering creative problem-solving and also innovation.

Useful Resources

  1. Conversion marketing – Glossary of Conversion Marketing.
  2. Over 300 tools reviewed – Digital Marketing Toolbox.
  3. The Art of Innovation” by Tom Kelley. This book explores strategies for fostering creativity and overcoming cognitive biases to drive innovation in business and everyday life.
  4. Design a Better Business: New Tools, Skills, and Mindset for Strategy and Innovation” by Patrick Van Der Pijl, Justin Lokitz, and Jesse Van Der Pijl. This practical guide offers techniques and methods for breaking free from traditional thinking patterns.
  5. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All” by Tom Kelley and David Kelley. This book provides insights and exercises that embraces experimentation, challenges assumptions, and overcomes cognitive biases to unlock creativity and innovation.
  6. The Power of Mindful Learning” by Ellen J Langer. This book offers practical techniques for cultivating mindfulness in learning and problem-solving. Which can help individuals overcome cognitive biases and enhance their ability to think creatively and find alternative solutions.