The snap judgments of intuition – as powerful as they can be – are rarities in the history of world-changing ideas. Most hunches that turn into important innovations unfold over much longer time frames. They start with a vague, hard-to-describe sense that there’s an interesting solution to a problem that hasn’t yet been proposed, and they linger in the shadows of the mind, sometimes for decades, assembling new connections and gaining strength. And then one day they are transformed into something more substantial: sometimes jolted out by some newly discovered trove of information, or by another lunch lingering in another mind, or by an internal association that finally completes the thought. Because these slow hunches need so much time to develop, they are fragile creatures, easily lost to the more pressing needs of day-to-day issues. But that long incubation period is also their strength, because true insights require you to think something that no one has thought before in quite the same way. Flash judgments are often just that – judgments. Is this guy trustworthy or not? Is the sculpture a fake? A new idea is something larger than that: it’s a new perspective on a problem, or a recognition of a new opportunity that has gone unexplored to date. Those kinds of breakthroughs usually take time to develop.
From “Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation” by Steven Johnson – Riverhead Books