Creative LeadershipCreativity

How Do You Find That “Eureka” Moment?

This article from the New York Times is about the “eureka” moment. Does it happen out of the blue? Or is it the accumulation of a long working process? As the article says, “Epiphany has little to do with either creativity or innovation. Instead, innovation is a slow process of accretion, building small insight upon interesting fact upon tried-and-true process.

Just as an oyster wraps layer upon layer of nacre atop an offending piece of sand, ultimately yielding a pearl, innovation percolates within hard work over time. The most useful way to think of epiphany is as an occasional bonus of working on tough problems,” explains Scott Berkun in his 2007 book, “The Myths of Innovation.”

Most innovations come without epiphanies, and when powerful moments do happen, little knowledge is granted for how to find the next one. To focus on the magic moments is to miss the point. The goal isn’t the magic moment: it’s the end result of a useful innovation.”

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  1. Innovation is a hard thing to wrap your arms around to measure and define but it is garnering a huge amount of attention in many corporate areas.

    I did some preliminary work toward a thesis attempting to see if there is a correlation between innovation and knowledge management within certain industries.  I've had to suspend it and am heading in another direction now.

    It's hard to say what will lead to innovation in any given time of place but I think you've got the gist of it.  Environment can either promote it or hinder it.  Companies that treat their people like assets instead of expenses and who seek to put information into the right hands choosing to err on the side of placing too much trust in people rather than not enough tend to see a stronger sense of loyalty and care and with that a stronger and more genuine effort.

    It's a myth that money is a motivator beyond a certain point.  Money is a motivator up until the point that a person's needs are met and they feel secure.  Once that threshhold is achieved, higher motives take hold and people look to creativity and recognition or for a Christian, a sense of worshipping God with their gifts, and it's in that situation that people feel freer to take risks, dream big and invest themselves in the results.

    Want innovation?  Treat your people right, put the tools in their hands and give them the resources and information they need and if you've done the first step right in locating quality people in the first place, let them go and watch the results.

    There's a certain element of luck and those eureka moments that you can't reduce to a formula.  You control what you can and do that right and over time, the return will come if you stick with those general principles in my opinion.

  2. Very interesting! It reminds me of an image I saw in a money magazine a few years ago. The staged photo is Bill Gates lying on a couch surrounded by light-bulbs scattered all over the floor. He's holding one in his hand, there are some on his chest. But most interestingly, are the ones in the trash can. Most are burnt-out, but some are still lit. Point being… He's probably had thousands of "eureka" moments. Yet just having the moment isn't really the most important part, as the image suggests. he still needs wise people all around him who help decide which ideas are truely worth pursuing, and then a lot of hours, days, and years to create it. A lesson all Christian media creators should keep in mind. the bread that's been waited for always tastes better. The artisan partisserie doesn't throw together a batch of coissants or baguettes. The pastry chef kneeds and waits, and kneeds and waits, and kneeds and waits…and the end result is incredible. If they made the same pastry in 1 hour, it would be on-par with Wonder Bread. Yet the time taken to develop the idea, has made it extraordinary, even world-renowned.

  3. Time… it seems that this is a constant ingredient with innovation and eureka moments. We see it everywhere in every field of work. Jeff and Bart, you both make some excellent points. It always seems that the major test is time: “do we give up or keep pressing? Do we rush or take the time that is needed?” Some things just can’t be rushed and have the same impact. There’s no way around it. How many innovations do we forfeit and how many eureka moments do we not reach all because we quit before the necessary time? I think about my book: it took me 10 years to write it and there were many times I wanted to quit; a few times I threw the manuscript in the closet for 3-6 months. Yet, had I failed the test of time and given up, the book would never had existed except fragmented within me – and then… over time, the dream would have died with me. I’m glad this post brings out more truth about the nature of innovation. It’s much like faith in some respects – building line upon line, precept upon precept, brick by brick until you have a great work standing before you. The future builds upon the present. The present builds upon the past.
    Allen Paul Weaver III
    author, Transition: Breaking Through the Barriers

  4. In my experience, innovation comes from a combination of several ingredients:

    1. An extraordinary stubborn problem or need that doesnt go away.

    2. An intense motivation to resolve the situation.

    3. The sustained application of unfettered thought that challenges the existing assumptions of the status quo.

    What often happens is that lessons learned in seemingly unrelated fields of thought are adapted and applied in new ways.

    I used this approach several years ago when wrestling with the issue of underfunded and unimaginative content for Christian television – but thats another topic.

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