Eureka! The art of finding solutions when and where you least expect them

Many of us attend seminars and industry educational events. Most of the time we leave with at least one good idea that we can’t wait to try. My husband, Dave, calls these “head slappers.” His definition of head slappers is one of those things that makes so much sense, “Why didn’t I think of it sooner?” I prefer to call it a “Wow!” moment. Wow moments occur when we least expect them. Some come with perfect timing. Mine usually come when I’m chatting with other business folks and something in the conversation triggers a perfect solution to a challenge I’ve been wrestling with.

All of us appreciate a good head slapper or wow moment, no matter where it comes from — and especially when it solves a problem. Albert Einstein said, “Imagination rules the world,” and he was right. I think a good wow moment comes from letting your imagination run free to explore all the ways to solve a problem or create a more efficient way of doing something. Some might call that creative brainstorming.

Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, quotes Thomas H. Huxley (1925–1895), English biologist, as saying “A good idea is a network. A specific constellation of neurons — thousands of them — fire in sync with each other for the first time in your brain, and an idea pops into your consciousness.”

Ideas come from people, of course, but how do groups, businesses, and other entities come up with the ideas? Some ideas and wow moments come like thunderbolts when one hears or sees something that points the way. I once heard someone say that you don’t know something until you know it in more than one way. Margaret Heffernan, international businesswoman, author, and TED speaker, said, “For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.”

Do your best ideas and wow moments come from sitting down with a pad of paper or do they come spontaneously, when you least expect them to? A business consultant I recently spoke with — a real idea expert — told me that great ideas for many of his clients come when they’re out walking, running, or traveling, just before falling asleep or when they first wake up, listening to audiobooks or podcasts, and when showering. The prime idea generating time is in conversation with others.



Warren Buffet, American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist, said “You do things when the opportunities come along. I’ve had periods in my life when I’ve had a bundle of ideas come along, and I’ve had long dry spells. If I get an idea next week, I’ll do something. If not, I won’t do a damn thing.” And John Steinbeck (1902–1968), American author said, “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”

When ideas are flowing during a conversation or a meeting, I’m always grateful when I find that perfect head-slapping, wow moment that just may contain the answer I’m looking for. Here’s to sharing good ideas!

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