Combinatorial Play

What is it? It’s the term applied by Einstein to the creative combination of (seemingly) unconnected theories to develop new, more general theories.  Combinatorial play often works subconsciously, while a person is asleep or engaged in a “mindless” diversion. The possibility of arriving at a solution to a problem by shelving it — even overnight — underlies the counsel to “sleep on it.”

Combinatorial play occurs in the absence of artificial deadlines, which hamper truly creative thinking. Such thinking occurs when a person with deep knowledge of a practical, professional, or scientific subject acquires a new insight about the subject by thinking in new ways (often subconsciously) about his knowledge — by making new connections from “old facts,” so to speak.

Related reading:
Thought for thinkers:’Follow your gut,’ study advises on big decisions
Let Subconscious Handle Complex Decision Making?