You don’t need a Eureka moment to have a good idea
I can’t believe it’s been a whole week since we posted the last creative lie. And here we are again wrestling another misunderstanding to the ground and kneeing it where it hurts. The stinker that we’re dealing with this week is the myth that good ideas come from a ‘Eureka Moment’.
The terrible cliché is that all brilliant ideas come in the form of wild and dramatic flashes of insight. As much as these moments actually exist, most ideas don’t come that way.
But the Eureka Moment has created a whole heap of unhelpful misunderstandings about creativity. When you get one of these bursts of creative dynamite, it feels a bit special. It often comes as a pretty well-formed idea when you’re not expecting it. And because it’s not the result of conscious thought, it feels like a special mystery. That’s why the ancient Greeks came up with the mythology of the muses to explain it. If you suddenly get a well-developed solution to a problem when you weren’t even thinking about it, the theory of a benevolent spirit seems like a plausible explanation.
But – c’mon – we’ve got a much better understanding of the brain these days, so we can surely put that nonsense to rest now (Elizabeth Gilbert, I’m talking to you).
Most of you will have experienced one of these eureka moments. Most commonly, people say they have them just before they go to sleep, just after they wake up, in the shower, on the bus, in the car on the toilet. These are all situations when you’ve relaxed and aren’t busy consuming other stimuli.
Neuroscientists have even found the exact area of the brain that is the key to these moments. It’s called the Anterior Superior Temporal Gyrus. It’s just above your right ear. And it only seems to activate when your brain is in alpha state. In other words, when you’re relaxed.
But if you don’t have all the right information in your head and you haven’t spent time mentally exploring the problem, you’re unlikely to get a brilliant and effective answer.[clickToTweet tweet=”If you haven’t spent time exploring the problem, you’re unlikely to get a brilliant answer” quote=”If you haven’t spent time exploring the problem, you’re unlikely to get a brilliant answer” theme=”style6″]
You first need to spend time really really getting your mind around the problem, the input and the opportunities. You do that by dedicating uninterrupted time to coming up with lots of ideas; by coming at the problem from as many different angles as possible. And that’s where you’re more likely to actually come up with your solution.
Without the aid of a blinding flash of brilliance.
So top up your bath with hot water, Archimedes – you don’t need to get out just yet.
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