There is always much talk about the eureka moment – that magical moment when an idea crystalizes into something coherent – something that can be articulated, shared and built upon. We often think of the eureka moment as the start (time = 0) point in in the innovation process, not dissimilar to the big bang start of the universe. But alas, the eureka moment is far from the beginning.
Long before things converge into a eureka moment, the raw ingredients of an idea must exist – a primordial mix of pains, problems, brilliance, dreams, passion, creativity and imagination. Somewhere and somehow within our subconscious, these raw ingredients come together over time, and eventually focalize into a conscious spark of brilliance that we call an idea. This pre-eureka phase – the so-called fuzzy front-end of innovation – is the source of all ideas and obviously vitally important to the innovation discussion. But it is also a topic that most of us are ill-equipped for. As we step back in process time, we transition from the post-eureka domain of engineers and entrepreneurs to the unexplored pre-eureka jungles of neuroscience. While neuroscience is making tremendous strides (especially with the latest functional MRIs (fMRI) research), for us laypeople the pre-eureka phase remains mostly a mystery – a troubling concept given that it is the source of the seeds of our businesses.
It is hard to accept that so much of the value we create is the result of a process beyond our control somewhere within the dark recesses of our minds. But that is indeed what neuroscience is teaching us. And while there is much talk about the environmental factors that enable creativity and innovation, the truth is that hard science usually doesn’t support these theories. I still think they are worthy conversations to have, but we must remain humble about how much we really know and understand … and we really don’t know that much. We can be troubled by this reality or we can see it as a brave new frontier.
Ty J. Shattuck,
Follow on Twitter: @tyshattuck