Communication & Alignment

3 Tips to Foster Eureka! Moments in Your Business

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3 Tips to Foster Eureka! Moments in Your BusinessWhile it is a well-debated and highly controversial topic, Eureka! moments do indeed occur, just not sitting on the couch nor in a vacuum. Well, unless of course you’re Dyson.

James Dyson, vacuum cleaner extraordinaire and billionaire, built over one thousand prototypes before he found his Eureka!. Technically, he sells more vacuum cleaners than Eureka, and it didn’t happen overnight.

Dyson started working on vacuum cleaners in 1979 when his wife asked him to help around the house. He wanted credit for his efforts, but the vacuum cleaner he was using at the time simply pushed the dirt around as opposed to picking it up. More than a little frustrated, Dyson was determined to figure out the best engineering behind a superior vacuum cleaner.

For 5 years he worked on prototypes while his wife supported them by teaching art lessons. He then put their house on the line, borrowed $900,000, only to be turned down for years before getting his first break.

When scoffed at by a catalog buyer who asked him why he should buy the Dyson vacuum over an Electrolux, Dyson replied, “Because your catalogue is boring!” His cheekiness and persistence paid off with an order.

Eleven years later with a series of small sales, Dyson met Lord Howe who, after being very impressed with Dyson’s factory, asked if he had any challenges. Dyson replied, “Sales. I can’t get into Comet.” (UK’s version of Best Buy).  Howe exclaimed, “My wife’s on the board!” A year later Dyson was a best-seller!

Eureka! moments can be fostered in your company with the help of 3 tips:

1.    Creativity and innovation, while often interchanged in conversation, are, more importantly, interdependent.

Creativity finds meaning and purpose through innovation, and innovation would never occur without creativity. Each stroke of brilliance must be nurtured to thrive.

Innovation is central to our evolution. Innovation brings about change. And innovation always begins with a Eureka!

2.  Creativity yields to innovation with a phenomenon known as the Eureka! effect.

When a connection forms between brain cells that have never “talked” to each other you get a new idea – a Eureka!  When this creative moment is nurtured in an environment where free thinking is fostered and disparate connections are encouraged, the result can be game-changing.

Think iPod, bio-fuel, and making donations via SMS – these phenomena are complete game-changers. The creative ideas behind each of them didn’t simply stay in someone’s head. They were energized in environments of intellectual curiosity.

Ever have a “great idea” only to have it fade away in the mist of your mind? Companies that foster creativity (the generation of ideas) by designing creative spaces and encouraging employees to schedule uninterrupted time for “playing with ideas” yield a greater number of Eureka!s.  These Eureka!s then lead to innovations.

3.    A terrific technique to energize Eureka! moments is 20% time.

20% is the amount of time your brain needs to spend in Theta mode.

What’s Theta mode? The opposite of a go-go-go mode. Most of us live 80 mph lifestyles, but it’s when we slow down and reflect on what’s going on that we get our best, most innovative ideas.

In the early days, Google encouraged their employees to spend 20% of their time NOT working on assigned objectives and tasks. So what were these employees doing essentially one day out of the work week?

Google employees were exploring their environment, virtual and real, and “playing” with new ideas together and on their own.  Google’s 20% time culminated in a new $220M division, Google Maps, Gmail, and the purchase of YouTube. That’s innovation & productivity!

Google, under new executive leadership recently shut down 20% time. It will be fascinating to watch and see how they progress and how many brilliant ideas emerge to sustain their competitive advantage.

20% time is not about goofing off. It’s about reflecting, evaluating and predicting- the 3 highest forms of thinking the brain can do.

20% time is about playing, perhaps a round of golf or a pick-up game at the gym, but it’s also about “playing” with ideas – seeking out patterns, themes, connections, relationships that you can’t discern when you’re busy texting, returning phone calls or reading spread sheets.

The next time somebody in the office says, “We need to be more innovative.” Respond with, “Then how might we encourage more Eureka!s?”


Category: Communication & Alignment Innovation Leadership

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About the Author: AmyK Hutchens

Speaker. Author. Trainer. Business Strategist.


A former executive of a billion dollar global consumer products company and awarded the Vistage UK, International Speaker of the

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