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Ideas Fuel Innovation: Why Your First Ideas Aren’t Always the Best

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Ideas Fuel Innovation: Why Your First Ideas Aren’t Always the Best

Think Fast, Talk Smart Podcast

Stanford Business,

5 min read
4 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Retrain your mind to stop fixating on one idea and start coming up with more creative solutions to problems.

Editorial Rating



  • Scientific
  • Applicable
  • Eye Opening


Are your assumptions about what makes an idea good idea holding you back from innovation? Jeremy Utley, director of executive education at the Stanford, sees all ideas, even the silly ones, as an important part of the creative process. He joins host Matt Abrahams of the Think Fast, Talk Smart podcast to discuss the mental reflex that keeps us fixated on getting it “right” instead of getting creative. This podcast will appeal to anyone who wants to expand their potential, or their organization’s potential, to tap into more creative thinking and come up with innovative ideas.


When people look for the answer to a problem, they tend to fixate on their first idea.

Innovation starts with ideas. What mind-set can you adopt to help you come up with more of them?

In 1942, psychologist Abraham Luchins coined the term, “Einstellung Effect” to describe a phenomenon he noticed in his research. He observed that human beings tend to fixate on the first solution they find to a problem. Once people come up with a solution, they stop searching for other solutions, and they can’t recognize superior solutions. However, there is very little research to suggest that a person’s first idea is his or her best idea.

Research also shows that most people participate in the “Creative Cliff Illusion”: They believe that, as they work on a problem, their creativity drops off sharply at some point; but this perception is not true. Creativity does not drop over time. For some people, the opposite is true: They expect that they will keep having...

About the Podcast

Jeremy Utley is the director of executive education at the Stanford and co-author of Idea Flow: The Only Business Metric That MattersMatt Abrahams is a lecturer of Strategic Communication at Stanford Graduate School of Business and host of the Think Fast, Talk Smart podcast.

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