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'Innovation In a Flash' Is a Myth

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the slouching-towards-greatness dept.

Technology 163

An anonymous reader writes "A New York Times article spells out what most of us probably already knew: real innovation takes lots of time and hard work to come to fruition. The article looks at the origins of new ideas, and attempts to dispel the myth that 'Eureka' moments create change. Comments author Scott Berkun, '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. Everything results from accretion. I didn't invent the English language. I have to use a language that someone else created in order to talk to you. So the process by which something is created is always incremental. It always involves using stuff that other people have made.'"

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Exactly! (5, Funny)

AlphaDrake (1104357) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289238)

You may think my hamburger earmuffs were thought up in a flash. But it took a long time to get the pickle matrix just right.

Re:Exactly! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22289912)

Delicious irony if you look at the host for the story from the following Slashdot article on Intelligent Swarms http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/02/04/0247232 [slashdot.org]

You can't discard the role of intuition. (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289246)

Prior art is the road. Hard work is the engine. Intuition is the steering wheel. You get

Re:You can't discard the role of intuition. (4, Interesting)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289596)

Intuition is pattern recognition and changing the lenses (angle) from which you look at something, that someone took the time to work out.

The key is, as Schopenhauer said: "to think something no one has thought yet, while looking at something that everybody see's" which is fancy way of saying: Keep changing the perspective (interpretive framework) and using other seemingly unrelated subjects to try and interpret it in terms of something else.

Millions of people have similar or the exact same leads on great ideas everyday but they don't have the time or the fast mind to follow up on them. IMHO it's not that people can't figure it out given enough time, it is who and what you come into contact with that triggers the lead up to deofuscate the idea and THEN the persistence to follow that 'intuition'. Intuition is necessary but intuition

Part of the problem is the education system itself amd it's attempt to rush learning and disavow thinking about things differently in order to pound out 'educated' workers. People that realize there are connections between everything that we can't see and have initiative despite lack of formal education were some of the greatest innovators.

inspiration and perspiration (5, Interesting)

johnrpenner (40054) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290190)


"Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."
(Thomas Alva Edison)

"If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would proceed at once
with the diligence of the bee to examine straw after straw until he found
the object of his search. I was a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that
a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labour."
(Nikola Tesla, New York Times, October 19, 1931)

And that my friends... (4, Insightful)

Mantaar (1139339) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289254)

And that, my friends, is *exactly* why Open Source is so successful and important.

Now let's go manufacturing open source hardware...

Re:And that my friends... (4, Funny)

leguirerj (442771) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289540)

Thats what the Patent System is for, to corral all those wild ideas, fence them off, and make anyone who can make them work, pay for them.

Re:And that my friends... (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289694)

Open Source closed source doesn't effect if a product is innovative or not. There are many products that are open source and don't add anything new to the table, they are just trying to copy as many features as possible, of an established closed source project. The only "improvement" over the original design is using a different license for it. The same applies to some closed source projects, lets reinvent this open source project and make it closed source so we can package it and have control over it. There are also many innovative open source projects that really put the to the next step, or introduce a new concept that may or may not a hit. The same with many closed source projects. Just because a project is open source it doesn't mean you will have millions of people working on it, most project that are open source are programmed by one or two people. the same size as most Closed Source Project. The fact they decide to share the source is unrelated to innovation (on a technical level). The only advantage that open source has if someone wants to innovate off someone else's idea they at least do not need to start from scratch.

Re:And that my friends... (1)

blissend (1232834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290912)

"Open Source closed source doesn't effect if a product is innovative or not." I may be missing something here, but I don't see how being closed source will offer more people a better chance to procure innovation. Statistically speaking, wouldn't open source allow more opportunities to be innovative?

Re:And that my friends... (4, Insightful)

node 3 (115640) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289728)

I think you've got it completely backwards. Open Source is *not* about innovation, it's about building solid products. In general, the only thing truly innovative about Open Source software is the Open Source model itself.

Innovation is a by-product of research, and research is something that is almost *never* done by Open Source developers. What Open Source is really good at is applying innovations already discovered. Essentially, engineering using known techniques.

Now let's go manufacturing open source hardware...
And what innovations would you expect from Open Source hardware (aside from the model itself)?

That's why Open Source is not taking over from the end-user perspective--it's just not innovating enough. It's only for the types of applications which are essentially solved, where progress is made by incrementally refining something, that Open Source is taking over and will be unstoppable.

Research is expensive. Very expensive. The only reason Open Source has taken off as a software development model is that software development can be done very cheaply. It will be quite difficult for an Open Source team to create new and innovative hardware. They just won't have the resources.

Re:And that my friends... (0, Flamebait)

mpe (36238) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289928)

I think you've got it completely backwards. Open Source is *not* about innovation, it's about building solid products. In general, the only thing truly innovative about Open Source software is the Open Source model itself.

Which isn't actually that innovative in the first place.

Re:And that my friends... (0)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291018)

Whether or not open source "innovates" or not is irrelevant.

The "end-user" is not interested in "innovation". They want
the status quo to be maintained. They won't even consider
trying something new. They are either lazy or frightened of
any sort of change or both.

They won't move on until circumstances force them to. They
certainly won't seek out new and interesting things.

The history of GUI adoption is a very good demonstration of this.

Re:And that my friends... (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289776)

How does this only apply to Open Source? Surely you meant "And that, my friends, is *exactly* why well-thought-out development is so successful and important".

Oh, really? (4, Interesting)

Max Threshold (540114) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289262)

Which major IP holder sponsored the "research" behind the article?

Re:Oh, really? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289420)

I was thinking the same. What tightening of IP laws is around the corner that needs to be sold?

Re:Oh, really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22289802)

Wow, a real no shit sherlock posting.

"news for nerds, stuff that matters"

Re:Oh, really? (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290398)

But that says nothing to the argument. All I see in your post is an ad hominem argument.

Innovation (5, Funny)

Wowsers (1151731) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289264)

I have a patent on innovation :-).

Re:Innovation (2, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289668)

A method of designing a novel method or device by incremental advances on current knowledge or technology, usually without the use of flashes of inspiration, but instead involving long hours of deep thought and experimental verifications. And lots of pizza.

Re:Innovation (2, Funny)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289670)

I claim prior art!

By the way, I have a patent on prior art research.

Re:Innovation (2, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289942)

By the way, I have a patent on prior art research.
My friend mwvdlee makes the point in a funnier and more insightful way than I ever could.

From TFA:

Everything results from accretion. I didn't invent the English language. I have to use a language that someone else created in order to talk to you. So the process by which something is created is always incremental. It always involves using stuff that other people have made.
What a great argument for the end of "protecting" innovation through IP laws. It sounds like everything comes from prior art.

Re:Innovation (2, Interesting)

Sique (173459) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290028)

So we are back to Bernard of Chartes and his wellknown and often quoted "If I've seen further, it was by standing on the shoulders of giants."

Uh, I've had those moments (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22289268)

All the time I have little flashes of realization or inspiration. Being that I'm a software & hardware designer and developer, had I not had these "flashes" I would never have made any of the things I did. The author of this article is selling opinion and personal viewpoint as some sort of psychological "fact". I wish slashdot wouldn't post these stories because it gives the impression this opinion is widely held or fact.

Re:Uh, I've had those moments (2, Interesting)

VoidCrow (836595) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289552)

I suspect that this opinion is held by those people who would wish, for personal reasons, to seek to characterise originality and genius as a mixture of obsession and hard work. If they can convince themselves and others, then at some level they can think 'I could do all those things, but I have a life'. It's just comfort-zone area-denial for the self-deluded.

Re:Uh, I've had those moments (3, Insightful)

Dr. Hok (702268) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289664)

All the time I have little flashes of realization or inspiration.
Full ack. I still remember vividly how I went to bed one day after hours of fruitless pondering over that day's differential geometry lecture, then woke up in the middle of the night and suddenly *knew* what it was all about. Before, it was all just meaningless equations and symbols, which had suddenly turned into images of familiar places and faces, sort of. (Yeah, I know, people sometimes call me weird.)

Of course you can say that this moment of 'revelation' was nothing by itself, but only the last step in a chain of hard work. But still, it was just far out and a joy to behold.

Re:Uh, I've had those moments (1)

emilper (826945) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289756)

Being that I'm a software & hardware designer and developer

Should I believe you became a software & hardware designer in a flash of inspiration, too ? Or did it take some good years of hard work to get there ?

Re:Uh, I've had those moments (1)

insertwackynamehere (891357) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290406)

You're kind of missing his point.. he never said all his ideas were flashes of random inspiration, he just said that it does happen.

Re:Uh, I've had those moments (1)

quintessentialk (926161) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289932)

I thought part of the argument in the article was that even inspiration that appears to come in flashes has its genesis in a serious, time-intensive committment -- e.g. staying literate in your field and others from which you draw inspiration, spending time thinking about the problem, learning how to recognize a good idea when you see it, etc.

I don't think the article is claiming that problem-solving-by-flash never happens, but that the public perception of that style ignores the amount of work involved a) in getting yourself to a place where the flash of inspiration is possible and b) the work to implement an idea.

Re:Uh, I've had those moments (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289946)

What a waste to post this as an AC....oh well.

I agree. I think that the "flash" is the beginning of the process. The hard work leads to the final invention. When someone first said "how can I make the wind do work for me" you can bet that the first couple of prototypes didn't work exactly as planned....but through hard work and refinement, they came up with a windmill. Even if the idea is just a way to make something better, it takes that flash to start the process.

Layne

Re:Uh, I've had those moments (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290054)

I don't remember who said it - Bell? Edison? But the quote is "1% inspiration and 99% perspieation". But the quote is talking about TIME, not importance.

You can slave your ass off for years, but without the idea you're not going to invent anything. You have to think "wow, I bet there's a way to use electricity to make light with" before you can invent the light bulb, even though it may take years of work to make the thing actually happen.

It's kind of like my lame journals. There isn't a new one this week; the muse has to strike. Without inspiration there's no way it's going to happen.

-mcgrew

Re:Uh, I've had those moments (1)

ContractualObligatio (850987) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290700)

All the time I have little flashes of realization or inspiration.

So does everyone else. The ability we admire is the ability to make something of an idea, not just to have it. You've made things based upon your flashes of inspiration, which is great, but it is the fact that you made it is impressive, not just the idea.

I wish slashdot wouldn't post these stories because it gives the impression this opinion is widely held or fact.

The most important rebuttal to make is that it would be a sad world where articles were not written or posted just because someone disagrees with them. I have no problem with someone stating an opinion without the false modesty of saying "of course this could all be wrong". We're not talking about some political decision being forced upon us.

But also, it is an ignorant developer who doesn't know the old "1% inspiration, 99% perspiration" adage. Innovation is defined as the introduction of a new idea, not its initial inspiration. If you've managed to create things without much effort beyond the initial idea, tell us what they are so that they can be judged. I doubt you have done anything remarkable that was based neither on the learnings of past efforts and study nor the effort of development, testing and refinement.

It is as ever a sad comment on Slashdot that a post is marked insightful because it in line with the groupthink, panders to the ego, and yet falls apart upon inspection because it is simply contrary to reality.

Re:Uh, I've had those moments (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22290752)

Yes, there are Eureka moments, but they are far less spontaneous than they look. You accumulate lots of detail knowledge until you reach a tipping point. The "creative" bit is that you're looking at a different problem... or looking differently at a common problem... or that you've identified a problem others have overlooked.

Sure making this new connection feels pretty spontaneous, but in fact it isn't. Your subconscious mind worked all the time on it.

MSFT (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22289274)

It always involves using stuff that other people have made.

Or, in Microsoft's case, buying stuff other people have made.

There is some value to that (1)

patio11 (857072) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289602)

After all, is it any different when IBM or Sun pays the wages of the folks working on httpd or OpenOffice? All they're doing is paying for man hours. Microsoft also pays the innovators... they just pay several orders of magnitude better. (And this is why every OSS Visio-clone will always be an OSS Visio-clone, rather than Microsoft playing catch-up by cloning successful OSS programs.)

Re:There is some value to that (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289734)

The difference is a matter of ego's.

With Microsoft they have a genius that things of a brilliant way to do something, then they have an army of coders who make it happen.

With OOS they have a genius that things of a brilliant way to do something, then they have an army of coders who think THEY are the geniusses and thus try and make it their own way.

The main problem is actually the lack of realisation that a singular vision may not yield the absolute best result, but it's a better result than trying to blend a thousand individual visions into an incoherent mix.

Obviously using the term "genius" loosely here.

intellectual property (5, Funny)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289280)

I didn't invent the English language. I have to use a language that someone else created in order to talk to you. So the process by which something is created is always incremental. It always involves using stuff that other people have made.

Lucky for us, corporate america is catching on, and they're probably working on a subscription service for that incremental innovation. Because you can't just have un-owned ideas out there, floating around.

Re:intellectual property (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22289638)

The original point is flawed. There ARE people who have stunning, completely new flashes of insight. But they aren't American.

America excels at copying other's ideas and making them commercially successful - NOT at original blue-sky thinking. A good example is Sir George Cayley, who single-handedly invented the airplane. But we only recognise American inventions, so we praise the Wright brothers, who were just one of the inventors who happened to be around when engine power-to-weight ratios were improved enough for Cayley's ideas to be practical. Cayley is someone no one has ever heard of!

And read the Wiki history of computing. I wonder why Turing isn't mentioned?

Re:intellectual property (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22289888)

Cayley is someone no one has ever heard of!
I have, there's a hall at Loughborough Uni named after him.

And perverting language != innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22289282)

The patent regime in Europe invented the concept of the "computer implemented invention" in an attempt to sidestep article 52 which prohibits patents on computer programs. And this really is the key issue; that everything can be reduced to a semantic game.

It cannot be possible to infringe on a patent if you merely reinvent the core terminology. Otherwise "computer implemented inventions" would be equivalent to software, being "programs for computers" as such.

You say "tom-ar-to", I say "to-may-to"!

only 10% imagination (5, Funny)

alfrenovsky (1212088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289318)

Investigation is 10% imagination and 90% perspiration. That's why most investigators smells so bad.

Re:only 10% imagination (1)

metamechanical (545566) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289536)

Since you paraphrased Edison, Tesla's paraphrased response might be appropriate: "Had Edison thought out his work and spent more time in preparation, he would not sweat so much." -- Nikola Tesla

Re:only 10% imagination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22289566)

Hence why prostitution is alive and well despite all efforts --- pimps have noses like bloodhounds, you know.

One Premise Argument (5, Funny)

Wazukkithemaster (826055) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289322)

I have to use a language that someone else created in order to talk to you. So the process by which something is created is always incremental. It always involves using stuff that other people have made.

I speak therefore everything is always incremental? Ok Descartes...

Re:One Premise Argument (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22289462)

I speak therefore everything is always incremental? Ok Descartes...
"I could talk about coordinate systems now, but that would be putting Descartes before the course." - Dr. David Goodstein, in a Caltech freshman physics lecture.

Re:One Premise Argument (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289616)

I was going to post something similar. It's like saying "Potatoes are starchy, so the only starch must come from potatoes."

quoting Newton (again...) (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289326)

"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

Re:quoting NOT Newton (2, Informative)

Petrushka (815171) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289356)

"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

Not Newton, but Bernard of Chartres (or John of Salisbury, depending on how your citation system works). Newton just recycled the line as a way to make fun of someone else who got annoyed after Newton had plagiarised his work.

Re:quoting NOT Newton (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22289544)

Newton just recycled the line as a way to make fun of someone else who
got annoyed after Newton had plagiarised his work.


It was to make fun (of Hooke, who was a shortarse) but because he had
a different theory of light.

Newton was a great mathematician, but something of a twat.

Re:quoting NOT Newton (1)

hazem (472289) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289736)

Not Newton, but Bernard of Chartres (or John of Salisbury, depending on how your citation system works). Newton just recycled the line as a way to make fun of someone else who got annoyed after Newton had plagiarised his work.

I worked for a physics professor that said Newton liked to say that because one of his rivals, Leibniz, was rather short. Like another poster said, (who attributed it to another reason), Newton, brilliant as he was, was quite an asshole.

Re:quoting Newton (again...) (4, Funny)

jimicus (737525) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289374)

"If I have not seen as far as others, it is because giants were standing on my shoulders."
    - Hal Abelson

Re:quoting Newton (again...) (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289574)

Wow. How apropos a quote for the bulk of people who rely only on popular news media for their point of view.

Re:quoting Newton (again...) (1)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289578)

And likewise,

"If I can't see as far as I'd like its the fault of the idiots who came before not doing their fair share"

Eureka Moments Do Happen... (5, Interesting)

rbowles (245829) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289370)

Its just that most often, they come at the tail end of alot of hard work. Everything comes together in a flash, seemingly in one brilliant moment. Those moments are what many of us live for, but in truth, they really aren't the result of our brains exceeding physical and computational limits and suddenly operating at infinite clock-speed. The truth is you were probably working on the problem for some time (possibly unconsciously). Give yourself a little credit for having an efficient background scheduler.

Re:Eureka Moments Do Happen... (4, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289514)

Sometimes the answer reveals itself in a dream rather than a consious flash, Bohr's atomic model being a famous example.

Re:Eureka Moments Do Happen... (1)

ibbie (647332) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289632)

Shh! This could wind up as yet another way for companies to get their pound of flesh - if you let everyone know, soon it'll be common for employment contracts to lay claim to (the other?) 90% of their employees' dreams.

Re:Eureka Moments Do Happen... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289678)

Would you like to buy one of my patented tinfoil nightcaps?

Re:Eureka Moments Do Happen... (2, Funny)

ibbie (647332) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289754)

Would you like to buy one of my patented tinfoil nightcaps?
Nah, I'll stick with velostat [stopabductions.com] headgear for now - it appears to still be working, since I haven't been abducted by grey people while wearing it. (:

Re:Eureka Moments Do Happen... (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289788)

I love it! Thanks for the link.

Re:Eureka Moments Do Happen... (1)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289716)

Or Kekule's dream of a snake curled up eating its tail that led him to the structure of benzene - a more vivid and accessible example of the same phenomenon.

Re:Eureka Moments Do Happen... (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289732)

They do, but in my experience they happen early in the development process.

First, you work on the problem for some time (possibly unconsciously) but that is only a small part of the effort. Say 20% as an example.

Second, the Eureka Moment happens.

Third, you do a lot of work to go from the brilliant idea to a marketable product. If you are in a regulated industry, add lots of documentation and approval procedures. In this (somewhat boring) phase the bulk of the work happens.

Re:Eureka Moments Do Happen... (1)

Bombula (670389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289790)

they come at the tail end of alot of hard work

I think they often come at the beginning of very hard work too. I've had several Eureka moments in my life, which of course have emerged as products of the sum total of all my life experiences. After the initial epiphany they all required extended periods of intense work in order to be realized.

Re:Eureka Moments Do Happen... (1)

Lars Clausen (1208) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290012)

Actually, the eureka moments are neither at the head end or the tail end. First comes a lot of digging into the field in one way or another, then at some point you get the "perspective change", then a lot of hard work is required to get it to something that works. However, that moment where the accumulated mountain of knowledge, ideas, intuitions etc collapse into a single new thing is exhilarating and noticeable.

Innovation is about as much sudden flash as making love is orgasm: It's the high point, but fairly brief. The rest is mostly perspiration -- and hopefully a lot of fun, too.

There, that analogy should derail enough nerd workforce that I can get my "innovation" out first.

Yay! ebay! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22289394)

It's like an auction but... on teh internets! Give them a nobel prize.

And putting OCR on a pen? Mindblowing - which genius put those two totally unrelated concepts together?

Must have been years of research...

Well, there's *something* to it at least (1)

Enleth (947766) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289418)

Refining and idea and turning it into a process, product, or whatever else it might describe takes time and effort, but the idea, as in the core concept, really a few words or images in one's mind, sometimes *might* come in an "enlightenment" of sorts. Maybe those aren't big things, but it's innovation nevertheless. Or, in my case, something between innovation and evolution, as I often think about how all the devices I use every day could be improved - and sometimes, I end up with a sudden outbreak of simple, yet effective ideas. I test whichever of them I can and they usually work (that is, I get some tools and hack something out of the original device and some scrap parts lying around). The hard part is taking it further - as a student, I don't really have the funds or connections for that - so most of those end up in the proverbial drawer.

This is news? (4, Insightful)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289448)

Is anyone surprised by this "revelation"? How many of the great innovations of their time were invented by two or more parties, completely independently and almost simultaneously? Powered flight, steam-engines, internal combustion engine, radio transmission...

Quite apart from the "10% inspiration, 90% perspiration" adage, most of the big technological advances are widely understood to have come about simply because it was their time - the foundations were in place, the need was there, and one of society's more creative and industrious members put the two together. That's called progress, people.

This is merely a book promotion - ignore (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289450)

The article has at it's central point a a new book about innovation.

Apart from rather out-of-place remarks about language - which I'm not sure I really understood, so I can't say if I agree with them or not, there is a lot of column-inches given to one single example of a guy who re-invented the globe, to help teach geography. Surely there are better examples of innovation than this?

I'm also not convinced that innovation for it's own sake is necessarily a good thing. There are lots of innovative, but really dumb ideas out there.

Eureka moments do exist (4, Insightful)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289472)

The mistake is thinking that they arrive without any prior work. They arrive usually not in the absence of previous work, but in the absence of a previous solution. How can you have a sudden idea about a solution unless you've been working on the problem in the first place?

I had one a few years back, when as far as I could tell, a whole years research was about to go down the toilet because I'd hit a brick wall.

I spent several days stressed out of my head over it, and finally resolved to get out and do something else.

Whilst I was relaxing the solution suddenly popped into my head, complete. If that isn't a Eureka moment, then I don't know what is.

I certainly had done plenty of work prior to this event, but I had no idea that solution was possible until that moment, none of my work directly pointed to it that I could tell (consciously at any rate, obviously part of my brain got it). It took seconds to realise it, and an hour to write it down, then four months to instantiate. It worked even better then I'd dared think possible.

Re:Eureka moments do exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22290176)

I had one a few years back, when as far as I could tell, a whole years research was about to go down the toilet because I'd hit a brick wall.

I spent several days stressed out of my head over it, and finally resolved to get out and do something else.

Whilst I was relaxing the solution suddenly popped into my head, complete. If that isn't a Eureka moment, then I don't know what is.
You used proto-matter in the Genesis matrix, didn't you?

Re:Eureka moments do exist (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290480)

No, he used an annular confinement beam to direct graviton particles to the main deflector dish.

Re:Eureka moments do exist (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290668)

No, he used an annular confinement beam to direct graviton particles to the main deflector dish.

Wrong, I reversed the polarity.

Re:Eureka moments do exist (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290538)

I had a similar experience with a bug in college. I had been working on it for days, and even showed it to other people and they couldn't figure it out either. The solution popped into my head while I was taking a crap.

Yes true, but (2, Insightful)

EddyPearson (901263) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289478)

This is true, it takes us a while to come up with all the mental material for a "Flash" innovation, but I think the "Flash" is when you suddenly work out HOW all the mental material involved fits together to make an understandable innovation.

Take the original "Eureka!" moment. Before Archimedes got into his bath, he had already formed many ideas about the nature of physics, he wasn't going into the experiance totally blind, however the "Flash" innovation moment came when he made a CONNECTION between the things he already knew.

The human thought process is a very difficult thing to quantify, and I think this article is misleading in the way that it lends to the idea that Archimedes in the space of 30 seconds came up with the concept of density through displacement, when actually, the the water displacment was simply the final peice in a subconscious puzzle.

Not a myth (1)

niceone (992278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289488)

There must have been some innovation or we wouldn't now have 8GB cards for just a few tens of dollars.

Oh wait, in a flash.

Definition (3, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289520)

I guess it all comes down to how one defines "innovation". If you take the word to mean invention, then the slow, incremental process can be called innovation.

However, I think most people use the word to mean "something radically different", as in a new way of doing something, or a never before seen product. This is the definition that most advertisers want people to have in mind when they describe their product. This kind of innovation is the result of a paradigm shift, which can come about either through Eureka moments, or it can come about when new people come on board and bring a new perspective to a problem.

I don't know about all that ... (1)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289588)

but I do know that there's no innovation in Flash. The Korean websites where the page is 15m long and everything is in flash kill me. And they kill my browsing experience.

In science... (1)

pzs (857406) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289642)

the plaudits do not go to those who have the great idea - they go to those who persuade everybody else that it's a great idea.

I don't know who said this, but it's dead right.

Peter

If Microsoft has taught us anything... (2, Funny)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289652)

What are you talking about? If Microsoft has taught us anything, it's that innovation *does* happen in a flash. I mean, it doesn't take *that* long to write a cheque, now, does it?

Hah - my patents say otherwise! (1)

putaro (235078) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289706)

I had a flash and pounded out a patent - a cell phone, a camera and a web browser all in one. A little money for the patent application and now I'm filing lawsuits against all the big boys. Who says you need to do lots of hard work!

EUREKA! (1)

m1ndrape (971736) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289726)

Where's my pet boy sherman, oh sherman!

Implementation takes work; Innovation, no. (1)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289730)

real innovation takes lots of time and hard work to come to fruition

Tell that to Watson and Crick, who for decades could never really explain how they "stumbled" upon the secret of the DNA double helix - Until it recently came out that the thought it up while tripping their balls off.

Or Einstein? He went from a hack dabbling in the works of Planck to the greatest physicist of all time in a matter of 18 months; and while some have accused him of "borrowing" his ideas from patent applications (or his wife - Which would make this no less of a leap rather than slow progress), no one can deny that he (or she) took a mess of conflicting ideas and unified them, practically overnight, into the single most functional theory of how the universe works we have available today - And he did so as a hobby, not as his day-job.

Freud? He got really, really high while bored at university, and noticed the influence the subconscious has on our overt behavior. That didn't "evolve" from Brücke and Helmholtz' work, it appeared as a whole new ballpark almost overnight (and in fact, when he personally went on to do the "hard part" of fleshing out his ideas, he created his modern tarnished image as a dirty old man).



Making that flash of LSD-inspired insight into the modern biotech industry took 50 years of hard work. Turning a short paper on physics into the LHC took a century. And turning "the subconscious" into modern psychoanalysis still has some way to go, 125 years later.

The "little" leaps come about as a result of work. The jumps happen in a flash.

Lingering smell of Romanticism (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289752)

In the liberal arts circles this has been recognized for ages. Many people still think those "Aha" moments are supposed to just burst forth regularly from the unique depths of your individual Romantic coolness. It's very uncool to work diligently in the arts. Unless it's working on your image of bohemian slothfulness.

But contrast that with most other ages where skilled craftsmen of all types have worked together in shops all day. The emphasis on individual "aha" moments is an historical anomaly.

No, real innovation IS in a flash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22289782)

Having had one of those innovative 'flashes' in the past, I think I'm qualified to comment

First, yes the flash of inspiration IS very quick. You find a way of looking at a subject anew and everything just tumbles out. I'd say roughly there is a period of about 30mins where you are exploring the new understanding, kicking the wheels, poking around to find the limits. This stage is better than sex.

However, you then have quite a few hours capturing it, checking it, understanding it in explicit rather than tacit forms. This takes up to a few days.

THEN you have the real problem. Its not that innovation takes a long time, its that dealing with the arseholes takes a long time. Nobody believes you, nobody understands you, not invented here takes over, funding is difficult to find (where's the track record of this idea). Most ideas, even brilliant ones, fail not because of the idea, but because management and the system are generally crap. They are not setup to accept change, they are setup to kill it. I think the stats are roughly 1 commercially exploited idea for every 3000 flashes of inspiration. Most of the time your baby is killed.

Somehow management sees this as YOUR failure, you are supposed to go through heartache to push it through. They never consider that THEY are the problem and need to be fixed. In general, if you have a great idea keep it to yourself. Explore it yourself in your own time, develop it, and if its commercially viable walk outside whatever organisation you may have and do it yourself. Sure the thieving little bastards will try and claim it after the event, but providing you are smart enough to leave a gap you have much more chance of seeing benefit from it, with less heartache, than would be the case if you kept it inside and tried to convince people.

So in short, yes innovation is a flash - but making it real involves years of wading through shit created by arseholes - which is what THEY call innovation.

Innovation has been redefined (1)

Jerry (6400) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289784)

Doing all that research was too time consuming and expensive. Corporations have found a shortcut: file IP patents for prior art and rely on their deep pockets to over come any legal challenges, except that most interested parties cannot afford to the legal costs to challenge. So corporations win by default.

Very True (2, Insightful)

HungSoLow (809760) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289798)

Research can 'appear' to have an instantaneous "a-ha!" moment but in actuality, it has the many years of supportive effort by the researcher. The flood gates of creativity might burst open at some point, but it takes a lot of time to fill that reservoir.

Let's be clear here... (1)

webword (82711) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289820)

Innovation doesn't *normally* occur in a flash, or suddenly. But, it can. There are instant winners. There are instant breakgroughs. There's also the luck factor. Sometimes, you just get lucky. Mere chance.

We've got a 12-metaphor pileup over on Slashdot... (1)

jpellino (202698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22289894)

.. make that 13.

Back to you, Bob!

What happened to "invention"? (1)

SnapShot (171582) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290074)

Am I the only person who is sad that the word "invention" seems to have disappeared in favor of "innovation".

As far as I'm concerned, innovation is what happens when the marketing department slaps a "cool evergreen scent" sticker on the latest jug of Tide detergent.

Invention is what happens when someone develops a new idea -- via a lot of thought and hard work -- into an invention.

I am shocked and appalled... (1)

stormguard2099 (1177733) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290104)

How is this article not tagged 'fluxcapacitor'?

I call BS... (1)

PortHaven (242123) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290110)

Many innovations are instant...okay...so many are mistakes.

> Corn Flakes
> Penicillin

And while many innovations have been gradual - a great many innovations have occurred in leaps and bangs!

James Burke (1)

D66 (452265) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290120)

I Believe James Burke did a better job making this exact point back in 1979 with his 10 episode "Connections" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connections_(TV_series) [wikipedia.org]
There were 3 total Connections series, but that 1st one changed the way I think about history and was amazingly prophetic

Epiphanies (1)

XNormal (8617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290256)

Creative epiphanies are real enough. True, they are neither a sufficient nor a required condition for successfully bringing an
innovative idea to happen in the real world. But they are hardly "Balderdash".

In theory, it shouldn't matter whether an idea has developed gradually or came in a "thunderclap". In either case there's a long road afterwards. But the memory of that special moment can fuel the determination to keep on the road through the inevitable hardships - and to inspire others.

does NYT write anything (4, Insightful)

superwiz (655733) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290386)

that doesn't promote some sort of socialist mindset? Yes, of course, the innovator is no one. He owes the work of his mind to the society and other people who made his innovation possible. Sure, sure. The individual is nothing and contributing to society is the only noble reason for living. What a bunch of nonsense! Innovation comes from two sources: wondering of the curious and gradually developed vision of forward-planning. The first is instant the latter is painstaking and slow. It is Mozart vs Salieri, if you will. And while the Salieri's make innovation useful, without the Mozarts it would never be possible. Standing on the shoulders of giants is important, but to say that it is all that matters when it comes to innovation is to refuse to acknowledge that innovation takes standing taller than anyone has stood before.

Koestler's "Act of Creation" - Revised Edition ? (1)

pg--az (650777) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290400)

Arthur Koestler's "Act of Creation" (1975) still fetches about $45 on Amazon - compared to a lot of old books which go for a penny, this jibes with my memories of reading it. These days it is hard to imagine not knowing the structure of DNA, much less the Benzene Ring - I remember that Koestler spent a few pages detailing how Kekule loaded up his buffers with the data to support his crystallizing insight - (( kekule benzene snake )). "Act of Creation" had quite a collection of case-histories in addition to Kekule. You need to load up your buffers, and the insight needs to crystallize, which often requires a "Reculer Pour Mieux Sauter" because "What you think you know that ain't so" so frequently is holding you back. What I would LIKE to read is "Act of Creation" updated by the awesome amount of neurophysiological advance since 1975. Like the article we are discussing there is a lot of shallow garbage out there - can anyone recommend a current work with this kind of depth ?

'Eureka' moments create change... (1)

infiniphonic (657188) | more than 6 years ago | (#22290872)

years or decades later.

Idea vs. implementation; innovation vs. invention (1)

snowwrestler (896305) | more than 6 years ago | (#22291174)

1) Ideas can come in a flash, sometimes with little work beforehand. However, turning ideas into products or services--making them concrete--is very difficult, and that process is often incremental and iterative. Consider computing, where many researchers and science fiction authors imagined vast networks and tiny hardware a number of decades ago. Yet, it is only now that we are getting the actual products they imagined (invented). Read "The Mote in God's Eye" by Niven and Pournelle, and pay attention to the descriptions of the pocket computer and screens everywhere. Their capabilities are available today, but it took 20+ years for that to happen.

2) Yvon Chouinard was founder of both Black Diamond Climbing Equipment and Patagonia--two of the most innovative companies in the outdoor industry. In his book "Let My People Go Surfing" (highly recommended), he defines a difference between "invention"--the creation of something wholly new--and "innovation"--a new application of an existing invention. For example at a trade show he found a polyester fabric treatment that was invented for football jerseys. But he licensed it and created the first wicking polyester underwear--Capilene. He said that because it takes so long to go from idea to product, most businesses don't have time for real invention. He wants to innovate instead because it is faster.
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