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Imagine you're part of an experiment. You walk into a room, it's empty. Except for a table with these three items on top of it. A candle, a box of thumbtacks and a book of matches. And your task is to light the candle and keep it burning parallel to the wall without it touching the floor or burning the wall. Now, take a moment to think about this. How would you do it? Let's redo the experiment but, this time, when you walk in the room you have the same three items, but they're presented slightly differently.
The box of thumbtacks has been emptied and the box is laying on the table. Now, how would you solve this problem? One effective solution would be to take the empty box, tack it to the wall, then place the candle inside the box and then light the candle. This experiment was performed in the 1920's by a Swiss social scientist named Karl Duncker. And what Duncker found is that, in the first scenario, only 15% of people could come up with a solution.
But in the second scenario, 80% of them were able to come up with that solution. Why such a big difference? Duncker theorized that the participants in the first scenario were so fixated on the thumbtacks' box doing its traditional function, that they couldn't conceive of it as a possible solution to the problem. But when the box was presented out of context and not performing its usual function of holding thumbtacks, it helped them visualize it as a possible solution.
Duncker coined this phenomena functional fixedness. Fixedness is a very important concept in the world of creativity because it's a blind spot in your ability to generate new, innovative products and services. Functional fixedness is a cognitive bias that limits you from seeing an object only in the way it's traditionally seen or used. It holds us back from creating combinations that would form the basis of a great idea. We all have fixedness.
You can't get rid of it. But you can break fixedness and that's where the SIT techniques come in. Each technique forces you to create combinations that you would not have created on your own, due to fixedness. If you let the techniques regulate your thinking you'll beat fixedness and see new, innovative opportunities.
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