Eureka! It Really Takes Years of Hard Work

Posted by Kendall Harmon

WE’VE all heard the tales of the apple falling on Newton’s head and Archimedes leaping naked from his bath shrieking “Eureka!” Many of us have even heard that eBay was created by a guy who realized that he could help his fiancée sell Pez dispensers online.

The fact that all three of these epiphany stories are pure fiction stops us short. As humans, we want to believe that creativity and innovation come in flashes of pure brilliance, with great thunderclaps and echoing ahas. Innovators and other creative types, we believe, stand apart from the crowd, wielding secrets and magical talents beyond the rest of us.

Balderdash. 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.”

Who knew? Thomas Edison, call your office. Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchArtMusicScience & Technology* Economics, PoliticsEconomy

2 Comments
Posted February 5, 2008 at 7:31 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Philip Snyder wrote:

I remember reading in William Barclay’s Daily Study Bible on Revelations that a lot of the imagery in Revelations comes from earlier apocolyptic works such as Daniel and the Book of Enoch.  What Barclay said that this indicates is that to best way to hear God’s voice is to be familiar with it as it was revealed in the past.

Likewise, the best way to become “lucky” is to work hard and long.  There are two quotes that I like.  I forget the author of the first one but it goes “You can be successful working half days!  And it doesn’t matter which 12 hours you work each day!.”  The second comes from the movie “The Incredibles”  Edna (the person who designes the “super suits”) tells Elastigirl “Luck favors the prepared.”  How true!

YBIC,
Phil Snyder

February 5, 11:36 am | [comment link]
2. Chris wrote:

who said it?  genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration…..

February 5, 3:15 pm | [comment link]
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