Military Environment And Blocks To Creativity English Language Essay

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Telleyard had said, "War is much too serious an affair to be left to military man". There is a need to dispel such notion. Environment has a direct influence on creativity thinking. Just as an individual needs creativity to overcome a blocked situation, organisations also require creativity to overcome their problems.

Military organisations work in conformity where rules and regulations form the basis of all activities. These peculiarities of the military environment have a telling effect on creativity of the individual and the organisation. Some important peculiarities of military environment that retard military creativity are discussed in the succeeding paragraphs.


Authoritarian Organisation

The armed forces are the only organisation where a man can be legally sent to his death irrespective of his personal feelings. Orders need to be obeyed promptly and without regards to one's own interest. These conditions have molded the force into the most authoritarian organisation that exists, with the hierarchical order clearly delineated at every level and displayed by badges and ranks. An authoritarian structure is itself a deterrent to creative thinking.

The problem is further aggravated by the impact of human weakness on the structure. Senior Officers when they make mistakes attempt to keep their image of infallibility intact rather than acknowledge their error. It is a misplaced notion that senior officers do not and cannot make mistakes. This is brought out clearly by the saying in service, "senior officers are never late, they are delayed." In case of mistakes, scapegoats are found to cover up organisational mistakes. If senior officers cannot make mistakes, organisations positively cannot. This is highly unhealthy for creativity.

Anti Intellectualism

In the armed forces, an intellectual is a threat because he challenges the facade of infallibility upon which authoritarianism is built. The implicit reason is that if the ideas were so good they would already have occurred to the omniscient superior. However, since the necessity of intellect and creativity to win battles cannot be denied, lip service is paid to the desirability of creative and independent thinking, while in practice it is frowned upon.

Military history is replete with examples where creative thinkers were eased out or frowned upon. In 1923 Colonel JFC Fulle, CI Staff College Camberley, was refused permission to publish his book "The Foundations of the Science of War". He was told that such books might call into question the validity of existing manuals.

Idolising a Technique

When a doctrine is proved in war it is idolised. No one thereafter can question or amend these. After the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, the doctrine of ships forming up in a straight line to attack was ideologised and issued as naval doctrine in the Royal Navy.

During the war of American Independence, nearly 200 years later, in 1781, this naval doctrine of line ahead was strictly adhered to and the Battle of Virginia Capes was lost. However, the Admiral could not be punished because he complied with the Navy Instructions.

Influence of Tradition

Traditions have an inhibiting effect on creativity in the armed forces. Though the constructive aspect of tradition in supporting the fighting spirit is appreciated, perversion of tradition occurs when it is used for the emotional appeal in an area which requires an intelligent solution. Generally, traditions are adopted because they have given success in the past. The new methods that challenge them are untried in war and, therefore, demand a high degree of intelligence and moral courage to adopt.


Though initially specialisation may meet the challenge with a creative response, but thereafter, as long as the existing problem is solved, further creativity is blocked. The military role tends to become much specialised and as Liddel Hart said, `History is the essential corrective to all specialisation'.


The structure of military forces is built to ensure maximum conformity of its members. The conditions of war demand that orders be obeyed promptly and without regards to one's interest. It is also established that more military organisations succumb in war because of the preponderant influence of the factor of military conformity. Military leadership, therefore, continuously goes through the test of finding appropriate reconciliation between conformity and the need of creative thinking.

It is, therefore, apparent that the military environment, due to its peculiarities, infact curtails creative thinking. These are also referred to as "Cultural Blocks" to creativity.


Focus of creative thinking is to generate idea, which is novel, useful, imaginative, perceptive and in its final form, conceptually distant from run - of - the mill. However, there are certain personal blocks which inhibit creative thinking. These are explained in succeeding paras.

Fear of Failure. System of rewarding success and punishing failure tends to develop an exaggerated fear of failure in individuals. The enormous cost of failure in war, which may even jeopardize national survival, thus forces the military leaders to function in the ambit of fear of failure, rather than hope of success. The fear of failure thus, makes individuals to avoid competitive situations and risks and adopt play-safe attitude and tendency to cling to a safe point of view.

Lack of Tolerance for Ambiguity. Ambiguity, uncertainty and complexity are the aspects leaders will have to face to be creative. However, many shrink from an ambiguous situation, because they feel unable to cope with it. It is worth remembering that, had there not been people who delighted in exploring ambiguous situations, no science or art would have been possible.

Touchiness. Touchiness is the fear of humiliation and rejection. This is a serious block and affects activities which involve collaboration with other individuals. If one's self -concept and self - esteem are at the mercy of the opinion of others, the natural reaction is to insulate, or seek out those people, who provide only positive feed back or flattery, hence such persons remain away from creativity.

Resource Myopia.The inability to see the resources at their disposal is a common block to creativity. Individuals are often unaware of their strength. Resource myopia gives rise to a number of other disabilities that also hinder creativity. These are fatalism, excessive dependence and inferiority complex. All these disabilities arise because resource myopia makes individual poor problem solvers.

Starved Sensibility. The organizational pressure dulls the sensibility of individuals. The ability to imagine and to fantasize, so abundant in childhood, is starved out by the constant admonition. Besides imagination, emotions too, are starved by the constant pressure, `to keep control,' `not be emotional', `be rational' etc. Cultivation of senses is necessary to refine aesthetic experiences, which act as filters, through which individuals get stimulations. If these filters are opaque, they would block out a lot of sensations that could otherwise have triggered creative process in the mind.

Rigidity.A common block to creativity is rigidity. Rigidity can come in many forms. Failure to adopt despite the need for modifying behaviour is one form. A formula approach to life is evidence of rigidity. The experiments conducted to measure rigidity indicated that, rigidity comes from over learning, that is to say, from persisting in applying a generalization valid in one set of circumstances, to circumstances in which it is not valid.

Lack of Knowledge and Exposure. Lack of knowledge and exposure inhibit perception and in-depth analysis of problems. Individuals lacking knowledge and exposure are thus unable to view the challenges in all its perspective, work out options and evolve innovative ways and means to deal with the challenges.


The creativity of a person depends on the environment too. The more congenial the environment for creativity, the more a person is likely to exhibit his creativity. All human beings have creativity abilities, however in the process of adjusting to environment, which expects individuals to conform to prevalent thinking and practices, creative abilities get submerged under the layer of psychological defences. Environment, thus profoundly affects the attitudes, traits, abilities and behaviour of individuals. The environment shapes creativity in various ways. For instance, a punitive environment instils fearfulness, low risk taking or experimentation.

Some of the environmental barriers generally encountered in the Armed Forces are:-

(a)Emphasis on immediate functional utility of idea.

(b)General distrust of originality.

(c)Tendency of senior commanders to spoon feed subordinate commanders.

(d)Insistence on rigid authoritarian obedience, discipline, drills and procedures.

(e)Refusal of commanders to delegate responsibility.

(f)Lack of long range objectives.

(g)Discouragement of experimentation.

(h)Frequent changes of key decisions.

(j)Lack of effective communication and free play of ideas and views.

(k)Failure of superior to recognise and reward creativity.

(l)Reluctance of superiors to take chances and risk.


47.Blocks, as explained earlier, inhibit potential of individuals and prevent them from indulging into creative thinking, it is therefore essential to get these blocks removed, so that individuals feel confident to explore the field of creativity. The acceptance of failure as a necessary part of life is the best way to get rid of fear of failure. Failure is as necessary as success, in learning new skills. Failure simply means that individuals have to try harder or have to select a new track. It does not mean that individuals are no good. Failure can be a tremendous source of information and powerful spur, to growth

and improvement. A more realistic appraisal of one's strength and weakness is a precondition for removing the block of touchiness. The attitude that criticism is, as necessary for growth and maturity, as praise, is a helpful tool. The best antidote to the allergy to ambiguity is for individuals to experience stress from ambiguity and realise that, it is not so terrible after all. Also, such confrontation of ambiguity would enable individuals to experience the genuine exhilaration that comes from problem solving and unravelling of ambiguity. If, individuals can joyfully solve puzzles and play games, than individuals can surely, extract similar pleasure from facing the ambiguity in other spheres of life. Developing attitude of approaching complex situations, as challenges and learning to unlock the closed doors, rather than as mazes with no exits, can be helpful in dissolving the blocks. Some conformity is essential for any social existence, however excessive adherence to conformity retard progress. The root of conformity go deep, into child - rearing practices, into what is considered right and wrong behaviour and the severity with which deviation from socially prescribed behaviour is punished, hence conformity cannot be got rid of easily. Only active questioning of conventions and habits, broadening of culture and rewarding of creative forays, can break the shackles of conformity.

48.The ability to perceive one's strengths and weakness accurately and the awareness of the resources in one's environment are indispensable for overcoming resource myopia. Curiosity, the habit of inquiring around who or where is what, the skill of being able to draw readily on resources of others, need to be cultivated to get rid of such blocks. Like stunted and shrivelled plants, starved sensibilities have to be revived through a more nutritive soil and better watering, that is by conscious cultivation of sensibilities. The impediments to the growth of sensibilities such as, the notion that fantasizing is a waste of time, or those facts are better than feelings, have to be removed. Coupled with this, there must be a deliberate effort to fantasize creatively e.g. by reading mind bending stuff, feel richly by recollecting vividly most pleasurable and painful moments, and enjoying the poetry of the body. A lively interest in the arts, in nature, in science, in sports, wide reading and cultivating interesting hobbies would help crack, the block of starved sensibilities. Stereotype and dogmas are often deep rooted. If they have been formed because of wrong information, they can be removed by right information. If, however, they have been acquired, to maintain sanity in the face of over whelming internal conflict or frustration and their function is to displace the internal turmoil on to the relatively weak and defenceless, information may make them even more absurd, hence help from another person in such situation, assist in removing this block. However, the person attempting to help remove the stereotype, must be trusted and seen as a friend and well wisher, to over come this block. Once fear and hatred are peeled off, the human psyche becomes more open to rational suggestion. Functional fixedness arises from over - learning. Instead of a stimulus evoking several responses, the individuals learn just one dominant response such as, chalks is for writing on the black board, lamp is for light etc. Some unlearning is necessary for getting rid of functional fixedness. Techniques such as, listing and brainstorming, can help individuals see multiple uses of tools, objects and remove this block.

49.Fears and disabilities are inter related. A person with many fears may take very little initiative and restrict himself to only those activities in which he feels safe. As a consequence, he may exercise only a few of his capabilities and thus develop disabilities like, stereotyping, resource myopia and starved sensibilities. Equally, a person having these disabilities may experience painful feelings of failure, in a wide variety of relatively unfamiliar activities and develop fear for, failure, ambiguity, humiliation and social disapproval. Fears and disabilities thus constitute a vicious cycle. It is therefore essential, to remove both, fears and disabilities, to develop creative thinking. Following methodology is recommended for removal of blocks:-

(a)Awareness. Most individuals to an extent are aware of their blocks. An exercise to measure the various blocks and strength of blocks should be conducted to help the individual identify the blocks.

(b) Analysis and Diagnosis. Having identified the blocks, individuals should be encouraged to study these in some depth. They should be asked to reflect upon the situations triggering these, recall the feeling that are aroused when block is operating, think back to those experiences that could have caused the block, analyse those habits that could strengthen the blocks etc. Individual should be encouraged to read psychological defence mechanisms like, projection, scapegoat, reaction formation, repression, suppression, sublimation etc. As part of the process of analysis and diagnosis, individuals should be encouraged to discuss among themselves, about the blocks identified by them and how they were able to get rid of them.

(c)Help and Guidance. Awareness and information about blocks is useful, but Individual should be encouraged to discuss it with others and advice and help each other to over come the blocks identified by them. A little guidance and encouragement from each other will go a long way in removal of the blocks.

(d)Inoculation. Individuals should be encouraged, to get rid of blocks by stages following inoculation strategy. It will help individuals to

get rid of deep rooted fears such as, fear of social disapproval or of humiliation or of failure or of ambiguity. For getting rid of these fears, individuals should be encouraged to seek, at first those situations that are only mildly uncomfortable or painful and restrain the blocks and then be graduated to take on more risky situations.

(e)Reward. Psychologists have often demonstrated that rewarding leads to the learning of new behaviour patterns. Individuals therefore, should be encouraged to reward each other and one self, for attempts, made by them to overcome the blocks. Similarly, institutions should also reward the individuals by public recognition of the attempt made by individuals.

(f)Gaol Setting. After some success at unblocking, individuals should be asked to set some goals and targets that assume the absence of the blocks. The target need not be very grand. It may be nothing more than, taking up a sport one always wanted to but has not taken up because of fear of failure. The important thing is, to pursue the target. This will help individuals, to uncover some hidden strength within, and give them a lot of confidence, besides wearing out the blocks.