The Myth of One Giant Eureka Moment

I was talking to a journalist today about entrepreneurship. I told him my theory that the myth of creativity is that it all happens in one, giant “Eureka!” moment.

You know the image: The idea comes to mind and you freeze. Its brilliance strikes you. It’s going to change the world! Tears start streaming down your face….I’ve got it! you say to yourself.

Yeah, right.

This myth makes some people think they aren’t capable of creativity because they never have earth shattering bursts of inspiration.

In fact, I would argue most eureka moments happen iteratively; that is, one small creative burst leads to another which leads to another and slowly you start to piece together a meaningful idea. A complete idea is a mosaic of bits and pieces — it’s not a brilliant painting done in one hour.

“OK Ben, I kind of agree,” the journalist replied, “But don’t you still think that somewhere in the process of entrepreneurship a light bulb goes off, that moment where the entrepreneur realizes he or she is really on to something?”

“Sure,” I said, “At some point you think your idea has legs and you start evolving it more seriously. But, the light bulb almost surely changes colors several times in the process. It’s very rare for an idea on day 1 to be entirely the same on day 30. Ask any founder of any successful business more than a couple years old and he’ll probably tell you the business model of today is much different than the business model of two years ago.”


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