When things are nearby, they’re concrete and you can see the details of the things. On the other hand, when things are far away, they’re much more abstract. So thinking about things that are near and far puts us in different mental states. When you think about things nearby, you see the details, and so when a creative idea comes along, the first thing you ask is, can it work?
[But] most creative ideas are risky and the risks are obvious when you look at the details, so when you think about it with this detail-oriented mindset, you’re more likely to shoot the idea down. On the other hand, when you’re thinking about things that are far away, you’re in a more abstract frame of mind and so the first question you ask is not will this work; you’re more open to seeing the creative possibilities."
NPR’s Shankar Vedantam highlights some curious research on why we miss creative ideas that are right under our noses, quite literally speaking. This is why the incubation stage of the creative process, where you step away from the problem at hand, is so important in producing the subsequent illumination stage. (via explore-blog)