One of the myths of the creative process is the Eureka Moment. The lone genius, working away in the lab, is gifted with a sudden insight.
Eureka! I have found it!
Steven Johnson, in Where Good Ideas Come From, The Natural History of Innovation, examined innovations throughout history to discern patterns. Previously, Mr. Johnson has written in depth about the discovery process in The Invention of Air and The Ghost Map. I had the chance to hear him speak last week and found him thoroughly engaging. He is well steeped in the body of knowledge and its relevance to the innovation today. Among Johnson’s insights:
The Art of the Slow Hunch
Innovations rarely come from the Eureka Moment. Instead, significant breakthroughs are preceded by years of thought. Johnson describes the slow hunch that is pondered and researched over time.
The Value of Collaboration
Significant breakthroughs are often attached to a single name. Yet, as Johnson poked about for the deeper story he found most Lone Inventors had a collaborator. Joesph Priestly, the scientist who discovered oxygen, had Ben Franklin (yes, the Founding Father Franklin) as a collaborator.
Here’s an excellent summary from his publisher.