Our first ideas are the worst

When asked to come up an idea our brains tend to go to what we already know and use it as the basis for generating that new idea. This limits our thinking and means the first idea we have is usually the most obvious rather than the best.

The neurologist David Eagleman says that there’s a scientific reason for this. It’s called the Einstellung effect and it occurs where our preexisting knowledge impedes our ability to reach an optimal solution. We become unable to consider other solutions when we think we already have a one, even though it may not be the best solution possible.

The process of generating lots of ideas has other benefits too. It helps us to reject quick fixes and consider broader connections that may lead to ideas for things we weren’t even looking for. And it can reduce the likelihood of us falling foul of the perfect solution fallacy where we assume that a perfect solution even exists. Coming up with lots of ideas can help us come up with good ideas and so reach the best idea.