“Thoughts, like fleas, jump from man to man. But they don’t bite everybody.”
When we consciously try to solve a problem or generate a new idea we are often unsuccessful. We hit a mental block. However, once we have prepared a problem and left it alone, our unconscious mind (the brain’s problem factory, if you like) starts work. Ideas begin to fly around in our head, banging into each other and forming novel combinations or mutations.
A quote from William James, the father of modern psychology, sums up the process very well:
“Why do we spend years straining after a certain scientific or practical problem, but all in vain—thought refusing to evolve the solution we desire? And why, some day, walking in ...