Our 8-year-old nephew was visiting us and spotted a wonderful old suitcase from the 1950s.  “What’s that?" he asked. 

“That’s a suitcase, Hank.”

Hank’s face adopted a very quizzical expression.

“That’s not a suitcase. It doesn’t have any wheels!”

In Hank’s world, suitcases have wheels, and in fact, have to have wheels. His mom works in the airline business, so he travels a lot and he’s seen thousands of suitcases—and these days, not many are without wheels. Hank only knows suitcases with wheels, so when he was told something that was contrary to what he knows to be true, he rejected it.

This is a great example of Availability Bias—just one of the many Cognitive Biases that are hard-wired into our brains. These mental shortcuts help us quickly evaluate information and ideas. And most of the time, it's ok to use shortcuts—it saves time and effort. But when seeking innovative and creative ideas, you want to take the long route in order to truly explore the territory. If you only create and judge ideas by what you're already aware of, your thinking will be greatly limited.

Consider this: what would Hank say about suitcases that fly?

To find out what Cognitive Biases may be limiting your creative thinking, take our quiz. To learn more about Availability Bias and other Cognitive Biases that get in the way of innovation, as well as some tips and techniques for overcoming them, check out our Behavioral Innovation™ Approach.

Ed Harrington

Ed Harrington is CEO and Innovation Process Facilitator at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies to incorporate the voice of the consumer in ideation and concept development. He co-authored the book, "Outsmart Your Instincts: How the Behavioral Innovation Approach Drives Your Company Forward."