Tuesday, March 21st, 2017
Innovation, cast as the triumph of human imagination, may be the most romantic discipline in business. And the eureka moment, that epiphany of total clarity in which a breakthrough invention or discovery occurs, is the most romantic aspect of innovation.
The eureka moment is this singular moment in time when an ethereal concept lurking in the subconscious finds its way to our conscious mental understanding. A moment when scattered pieces coalesce to give birth to an idea. But the “eureka” moment is a myth; big ideas need space to breathe, and develop.
The eureka myth is seductive, a hugely attractive idea, full of drama. But the act of inventing and improving is far more often a long, hard slog. And the act of capitalizing on invention—of managing the transition from a brain wave to the bustle of the marketplace—is the really hard part.
The trouble with the eureka myth is that it causes managers and investors to overestimate the pace of invention and underestimate the fortitude required to move from the early stages of discovery to a marketable product.
Thomas A. Edison tried 3,000 different materials for his light bulb filament before he found that carbonized card board work. Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.
Summing-up: Most innovation efforts fail not because of a lack of bright ideas, but because of a lack of careful and thoughtful follow-up. Smart companies know where the weakest links in their entire innovation value chain are, and they invest time incorrecting those weaknesses rather than further reinforcing their strengths.