In our ‘Unlock Creativity to Cut Through the Noise & Reach More Customers’ webinar, Forbes 30 Under 30 winner Allen Gannett brought forward the idea of “aha moments”. These are moments of insight when solutions and distant associations—which may have been simmering in your brain for days, weeks or even months—suddenly burst to the forefront of your thoughts.
Perhaps the most famous example of an aha moment belongs to ancient Greek scholar Archimedes of Syracuse:
He reportedly proclaimed “Eureka! Eureka!” after he had stepped into a bath and noticed that the water level rose, whereupon he suddenly understood that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged. […] He then realized that the volume of irregular objects could be measured with precision, a previously intractable problem. He is said to have been so eager to share his discovery that he leapt out of his bathtub and ran naked through the streets of Syracuse. (Source)
There is some doubt as to whether this bath story is strictly true, but the fact remains that good ideas sometimes hit us out of the blue. It can happen in the shower, while you’re out on a walk, during brunch with friends or while you’re getting ready for bed. The question now is, is there a way you could get more aha moments?
The answer is yes! The following tips are backed by anecdotal evidence as well as published research by cognitive neuroscientists, notably Mark Jung-Beeman of Northwestern and John Kounios of Drexel University.
Take a break.
The worst thing you could do when faced by a complex problem is to force your brain to process it. Downtime, even in small doses, can have a positive impact on your problem-solving abilities. If possible, take time off from your devices as well.
Undisturbed quiet nurtures aha moments, improves decision-making and silences biases. You don’t even need an entire weekend retreat—just 15 minutes of alone time can go a long way.
Daydreaming is the brain’s “idle” mode, where it ignores external stimuli in favor of a higher level of subconscious thought. Thomas Edison was famous for daydreaming: he believed in letting his mind wander and took careful note of the ideas that entered his head on his off time.
Get in a good mood.
Anxiety kills creativity. Studies show that even a slight lift in your mood can be conducive to insightful problem solving and aha moments. (As if you needed more reasons to do things that make you happy!)
It turns out that doggedly chasing solutions once you hit a wall is counterproductive. There is evidence to support the idea that, once you start thinking of a problem, you subconsciously keep working at it even when you’re occupied with something else.
Still stuck in a creative rut?
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