Ed Glassman
Ed Glassman

Mind Ruts Restrict Our Creativity

Sometimes I think I have furrows in my brain that capture problems and stifle my creativity. I call them mind ruts. Everyone has mind ruts.

Even wonderful mind ruts stifle creativity, limiting ideas to a quick fix. And we all keep trying to get a quality solution from a mind rut, even though it doesn’t happen.

The antidote to deleterious mind ruts, or even okay mind ruts, is creative thinking and advanced creativity procedures. Otherwise, every time a related new problem arises, we return to the same mind rut that succeeded before. If we stuff a new problem into an old mind rut that once worked, we find ourselves generating the same old time-worn solution instead of a fresh answer.

Here’s an example. How many ways do you think there are to represent “half of eight?” Write down the number.

Now list all the ways to represent “half of eight.” Spend at least 5 to 10 minutes. No peeking, please.

Most people write that there are only a few ways. You probably wrote ‘4’ and ‘four.’ Here are some other ways people in my creativity meetings have represented “half of eight.”


(multiply) 1 x 4; 2 x 2; 3 x 1.25; 4 x 1; etc.

(square & square root) 22; V16; 2V4 ; 4V1; etc.

(add & subtract) 1+3; 2+2; 3+1; 5-1; 6-2; etc.

(divide) 8 / 2 = 4;  12 / 3;  16 / 4;  20 / 5; etc.


o and o, which are the top and bottom half of 8.

Slice 8 in half from top and bottom, which are the left and right half of 8.

You can even halve the 8 in all directions leading to an infinity of answers. Indeed, you might halve all representations of eight in an infinite number of ways. This can be done not only on 8, but also on  eight, VIII, 4+4, and other ways to represent eight.


four; 4; IV; IIII; etc.

Ideographs to represent four in Chinese, Sanskrit, Arabic, Hindu, ancient Egyptian, etc.


100 (binary numbers); 11 (ternary numbers), etc.

Morse or semaphore code.

Deaf sign language.

Boat pennant representing 4.

Sign of Four (see the Sherlock Holmes story).

500 (1000 is the binary number for 8; one-half of this is 500).

10 and 00 (cutting 1000 in half).

When you dial ‘4’ on the telephone, its frequency codes for “half of eight” in sound.


Show 4 fingers (4-year old does this when asked his or her age).

7:30 ( the German halb acht).

Hit the ground 4 times with his hoof (what Clever Hans, the horse, did).


In a creativity meeting, you would only hear me say: “List all ways to represent half of 8.” It is heard, not written. Would you get into the following mind rut…..half of ate. And if you did, would you halve ATE in all directions, thusly,  ATE  ? Would you write “hungry,” draw a half eaten apple, or an apple pie cut into pieces?

Incredible. The list goes on and on. That’s what happens when we are released from restricting mind ruts and have access to the entire multitude of available mind ruts.

Much can be learned from half-of-eight. 

• Funneling problems into mind ruts and set solutions often leads to the quick fix, which is accepting the first adequate solution and denying your creative ability to find a better solution. Avoid the quick fix by setting a quota for three to five really different ideas before choosing a solution, more than ten is even better.

• Numerous, diverse mind ruts exist for all problems.

• In my creativity meetings, many solutions to this problem are found; yet each person discovers only a few. So work in creativity teams to share mind ruts and shift paradigms. Use advanced creativity procedures in teams to ensure effective sharing of mind ruts, paradigms, and perspectives.

• Do not rush when solving problems. A hasty choice leads to overlooking rich new possibilities. Creative thinking takes time and often means communicating with other people to discover new mind ruts and paradigms.

And checkout my NEW 2016 book:


How To Be More Creative Than You Think You Are.”


His book: “Team Creativity At Work I & II: Creative Problem Solving At Its Best,” is available: CLICK here OR HERE.

His book: “R&D CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION HANDBOOK: A Practical Guide To Improve Creative Thinking and Innovation Success At Work” is available.   CLICK here  OR HERE

Ed Glassman, Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, founded the Program For Team Excellence And Creativity at the university. He led scores of problem-solving creativity meetings and creative thinking workshops-seminars for many large and small companies. He was a ‘Guggenheim Foundation Fellow’ at Stanford University, a ‘Visiting Fellow’ at the ‘Center For Creative Leadership’ in Greensboro, NC, a Visiting Professor at the University Of California at Irvine, and a Visiting Scientist at SRI International in Palo Alto, California.

About the Author
Ed Glassman, Ph.D., is professor emeritus and former head of the "Program for Team Effectiveness and Creativity," in the medical school of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was also a visiting fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina.