How to Create a Eureka Culture at Your Company

According to Wikipedia, the eureka effect (also known as the aha! moment or eureka moment) refers to the common human experience of suddenly understanding a previously incomprehensible problem or concept.

A Eureka Culture encourages and facilitates this sort of intuitive insight... but very few established organizations maintain such a culture, because they fail to value and protect the qualities that make this possible.

All significant creative results have their roots in an INTUITIVE LEAP

That's the message of this fascinating paper by Viktor Dorfler and Fran Ackermann. The authors explain that most business researchers and corporate leaders look at intuition as a fuzzy way to make decisions, but they argue that's only half the picture.

Intuitive judgment is just one kind of intuition. The other, suggest the authors, is intuitive insight.

In almost all of the business literature, write the authors, "Intuition in creativity is still viewed as judgment. Naturally, the creative process may involve intuitive judgments, for example, judging which path to pursue in the course of a research project. However, we argue that there is intuition which is not judgment, which actually produces new knowledge. This is what we call intuitive insight."

Intuitive insight is most valuable when wrestling with a poorly-defined problem. For example, try to predict what it will take to succeed in any industry seven years from now and you have a poorly-defined problem. 

Intuitive judgment is most valuable with well-defined problems. "Can we increase quality two percentage points by changing our inspection process?" is a well-defined problem.

To use simple examples, a Decision is, "Do I have avocado toast or a turkey sandwich for lunch?" A Creative or Innovative Challenge is, "What new kind of lunch establishment can we create to attract people who are bored of eating the same thing every day for lunch?"

Once you recognize the existence and value of intuitive insight, it becomes obvious that some seemingly logical arguments for managing a corporate culture are dead wrong. By failing to separate intuitive insights from intuitive judgments, most companies have severely limited originality, creativity, and innovation. You can't decide your way to originality; this may be why established, well-funded companies repeatedly get annihilated by aggressive startups.

To create a Eureka Culture, companies must clear a path wide enough to birth and test intuitive leaps. This implies a lack of process, review committee, and other potential naysayers between each flash of insight and its initial test. If this sounds like a radical suggestion, consider the well-established Lean Startup process that most new companies embrace.

Lean Startups are all about getting out of your head and in front of customers as fast and as inexpensively as possible. You take your eureka idea and create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) for customers to test or use. Then, you use their feedback to reject or improve it. This enables startups to move fast and access actual customers without risking a lot of capital. 

Established companies need to behave in a similar manner, but most don't. Instead, they are too process-oriented, risk-averse, and approval-heavy to let intuitive insights happen and flourish.

This is why we are sharing this cold hard fact:

If you want to be truly original, make creative leaps and important new discoveries... your culture needs to embrace intuitive leaps.