We were on assignment – we needed to steal account codes from a shady billionaire’s office so he could no longer run his nefarious operations. We started in what appeared to be his study but quickly found ourselves in a secret room with a laser. The laser was handheld, so we started shining it in all areas we had found that successfully opened up secret drawers or cabinets in the past. We did this for about five minutes (which is long in an escape room). Then one of us mentioned that not everything is a nail when you have a hammer, meaning since we had a laser in our hands and were flashing it at EVERYTHING, maybe it was time to stop and think about what we should be doing with it.

Stopping to think was exactly what we needed to do. Because we took the time to pause, we noticed a mirror above one of the doors. Following what the mirror was facing, we found a target that was hard to see without the mirror. We then positioned the laser to bounce off the mirror and onto the bullseye of the target, which then opened up the shady billionaire’s vault and gave us access to the account codes.

How often do we find ourselves with a tool (sometimes literally in our hands, other times figuratively), and because our focus is on that tool, our perception narrows, and we have trouble seeing anything but what we believe the tool is used for. This is functional fixedness, and most of us get tripped up by it unless we are aware of it when solving problems. Instead, we need to take a moment, notice what’s available to us, and get creative in how we move forward. Interested in learning more? Simple Google, “Candle and Tacks Experiment.”

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