THE EUREKA! MOMENT. A BIG FAT LIE.
You’re sitting together as a team staring at each other. You look down and stare at a blank piece of paper. You look up. You look down. The clock on the wall is ticking, ticking, ticking. Louder and louder with each passing minute.
You’re waiting for that sudden flash of brilliance. That lightning bolt of realization or discovery. The fabled “EUREKA!” moment. Which is just that: a fable.
The Eureka moment is named after the story of the Greek Polymath Archimedes, who had been asked by a king to determine whether his crown was made of pure gold. Archimedes’ Eureka moment came in a bathtub! As the water rose when he stepped into the tub, he suddenly understood he could use the principle of displacement to measure the density of the crown. Too bad this story was written 200 years after it actually happened, and that the method didn’t actually work.
A lot of hype for a lot of nothing.
The big idea is not one magical moment where brilliance hits you like a bolt of lightning. It’s more of a slog. In the book "Where Good Ideas Come From," psychologist Steven Johnson calls this process a “slow hunch.” The great answer comes during or after all of the spadework of research and insight are done.
Again, ditch digging.
It’s a notion, a “germ,” a twist that happens when you’re standing over the hole (or holes) you’ve been digging. You put down your shovel.
You walk away.
You come back.
You rummage around in the dirt.
You walk away again.
Digging and chipping away to the point where Eureka is something that fades into view, not over seconds, but over days, maybe even weeks.
“Genius is 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration.” — Thomas Edison