Geek / Technical

Where Good Ideas Come From

I’ve been reading about intelligence and learning, and I was fascinated with the idea that the conscious mind can sometimes get in the way of full-brain thinking. If you’re reading a textbook for class, for instance, you might read in order, word for word, trying to analyze and memorize and understand everything as you go. The problem is that you are so busy trying to piece things together on such a small scale that you miss out on overall patterns and the meaning of the entire text. One suggestion for reading is to go in layers. Start by paging through and picking out headings and bold words. Within minutes, you have some ideas about how the textbook is laid out conceptually, and then you can start going deeper as you gain curiosity. It’s like reading in layers, and it helps aid your comprehension.

One big part of this kind of learning is the idea that your subconscious mind needs time to let things sink in while you aren’t thinking about the topic. You sometimes get the most insight into a textbook after you wake up in the morning. In the following video, there’s a mention about taking time to let hunches and ideas incubate which I think goes along with this idea.

The video argues that exposure to lots of ideas and thoughts is the primary driver for innovation. Not all of this exposure leads to good ideas, but “chance favors the connected mind.” Having all of these various thoughts in your head, you might get overwhelmed thinking about them purposefully and actively, but incubation time, getting away from problems, seems to help. I’ve woken up from a good night’s sleep with awareness of program bugs I introduced into my project before I went to bed, and usually the fixes for those bugs came along as well. B-)

I think I’m focusing much more on the incubation aspect than the video did, but I believe spending time away from a problem can help solutions develop in your mind and develop good ideas.

I think I’ll go for a walk now.

One reply on “Where Good Ideas Come From”

I also find that sleeping on a problem and letting my subconcious work on it yields a solution by the morning.

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