What is idea fixation?
Idea fixation can be explained as being too attached to one's own ideas. It's an unhealthy attachment to the idea that you are not willing to give up on, even when there are other better approaches out there.
There are several reasons for this:
- Your personal attachment to the idea could be clouding your judgement and making you less objective about what really works best.
- If you don't give up on that initial solution, you might miss upon a better solution, or you might give up too quickly on a great idea.
- Fixating on an idea can sometimes be a symptom of perfectionism. It's possible you might have been searching for the perfect solution, and once you thought you found it, it became very hard to let go of that idea.
What are the signs of idea fixation?
There are different things that can indicate if you're suffering from idea fixation:
- You don't consider other approaches as real possibilities anymore. You think it's the best approach there is and that no one could come up with anything better.
- You keep coming back to the same solution even though it has been rejected before. You keep thinking there is a way to make it work, and that you just haven't thought of the right approach yet.
- You tend to be dismissive of other people's ideas because you think your solution is obviously better than theirs.
- You don't consider your solution to be a compromise. You think it's the best option there is, and you're not open to other solutions.
How can I get over idea fixation?
It's very natural for us to become attached to our own ideas, but that attachment can blind us from considering alternative approaches. Once you identify the symptoms of idea fixation in yourself, you need to do something about it.
Here are a few steps that could help you overcome this:
- Consider other solutions – even if they're not as good as your initial approach is. You may be able to perfect them or come up with a hybrid version that combines both approaches into one solution. Ask for other people's opinions – don't be dismissive of their ideas. You might not understand how their approach could work, and that means you need to learn more about it.
- Give up on finding the perfect solution – there isn't such a thing as 'the' perfect solution for everything. If you keep searching for it, you'll never be satisfied with anything. Your idea is the best one for you, but it doesn't mean there won't be better ones out there for other people.
- Let go of your ego – if your solution isn't chosen by others, it doesn't make them wrong. It means you have to search for an even better approach. But don't take it personally. You're not perfect either, and your solution might be the best for you but maybe not for others.
When does idea fixation become a problem?
Idea fixation is a major problem when it becomes so strong that it stops you from looking at and thinking about other ideas. You might be stuck trying to make your original idea work, even though it isn't the best way of doing things. If the concept doesn't work as well as you thought it would, you might not want to admit that and carry on working on it.
When can idea fixation do the most harm?
It's important not to become so fixated on an idea that you completely ignore others because this could lead to time wasted and missed opportunities. Your team members could also become disheartened if they realise nothing they're doing is being taken into consideration, and they could start questioning whether it's worth it.
Some people are so used to being self-centred that the idea of working with other people is completely alien to them. They don't see it as a two-way street where every person has something to offer. This kind of behaviour often leads to isolation, resentment and people leaving the company.
Idea fixation can be detrimental to our mental health. It's hard to constantly worry about one thing for a long period of time without believing in it or seeing any kind of progress with it. If you've been sitting with the same idea for months on end, you might start to develop anxiety, stress and even depression.
How can I help someone with idea fixation?
If you think a colleague has idea fixation, try to approach them in a calm manner. Ask what the benefits of their solution are so they have to explain it's worth instead of just saying why other approaches won't work. If they have strong reasons for thinking that their approach is the best one, you should take them seriously.
Don't force someone to drop their idea immediately. Instead, ask them to imagine if their solution were put into practice. What would happen? How could it be improved? What are the benefits of their approach compared with other ones? You can help them explore other options, and they may feel more open to the idea of taking a different direction.
Don't be afraid of saying 'no'. Sometimes people aren't sure what your opinion is so they'll agree with you just so that you won't challenge them or their ideas again. This means it's okay if someone disagrees with you – as long as you explain your view calmly and clearly.
What can I do to avoid idea fixation?
There are lots of different techniques to help keep your mind open and prevent you from becoming too attached to one idea. Some people like taking breaks away from their work so they can adjust their perspective, while others find it helpful just to talk about their problems with someone else. It could be that writing down or even drawing out your thoughts can help you to see things in a different way, or that you need to talk to someone else and get their perspective.
There are lots of ways to stop idea fixation from becoming a problem for you so you can remain open-minded and flexible in your approach. You might also want to try these techniques with the people around you so they feel less restricted by their ideas and so they can contribute to the discussion instead of just offering one solution.