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January 03, 2008

Learning to Eureka

Jill Stoddard
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Napoleon, Buddha, Bill Gates — what makes them all great? According to a new book by Professor Bill Duggan, extraordinary achievements begin with strategic intuition, or flashes of insight in which the brain connects seemingly unrelated bits of information to solve a complex problem.

“Like leadership or judgment, sometimes it seems like some people have it and some people don’t,” said Duggan during an interview with The Invisible Hand. “The most important thing I’ve learned is that it's a normal function of the human mind. You can indeed learn it, and teach it.”

Many of us have had an “Aha!” moment. But whether your “Aha!” is about a shorter subway route or the meaning of life seems to depend on your situation. As Duggan points out, it was not Archimedes the cobbler who shouted, “Eureka!”


by Wole M. Fayemi | January 15, 2008 at 2:05 PM

I am so glad someone has published a work like this, because it has been a series of seemingly unrelated bits of information I have strung together which led to file a patent application to protect what I believe could be a transformative idea for one of the largest industries in the world. It is the cornerstone of my entrepreneurial venture, and one of the reasons I am applying to business school is to better access the education, access to faculty and resources to properly execute it. I at times felt as if I were crazy, because my "AHA!" moment has been difficult, at times, to explain to people, though ultimately, once executed, will probably appear obvious in hindsight. I expect that if I have the opportunity to attend school at Columbia, I will have the opportunity to see if I am creating something never before seen, and adding to the body of knowledge in the world, which I suppose, is the definition of an invention. Either way, it will have proven to be a valuable learning experience from which I can leverage the lessons learned in my future endeavors.

by Joaquin Grech gomendio | January 15, 2008 at 5:41 PM

During my recent CBS application I've had to read some snippets of Duggan's work. I liked what I saw and I'm waiting for the book to arrive. As an opposite point of view, I suggest taking a look at Harrison & Frakes work: "Instinct: Tapping your entrepreneurial DNA" I could give some good material to discuss in here.

by Michael Van Zandt | January 16, 2008 at 11:15 PM

While not a groundbreaking idea, I recently had an "AHA!" moment. It was 2:00 am in Tokyo and I was watching the archived New England Patriots game on yahoo/sports/nflgamepass on the Pats way to a Perfect Season. What bothers me continuously is that I have many sea-changing (at least in my mind) ideas, yet I never act on them. This time though, I went ahead and trademarked the term "Perfectriots" in a wide variety of categories... I am hoping to start taking more advantage of whatever "Strategic Intuition" and Entrepreneurial DNA" I may have. These books will definitely go on my reading lists. By the way, if anyone has comments regarding the IP or the concept, I would love to hear.

by Wole M. Fayemi | January 18, 2008 at 10:30 AM

I have a couple of comments about Michael's comment about trademarks as it pertains to 'AHA!' moments and IP. It wasn't until after I worked with a senior executive from the advertising industry, (a potential Chief Marketing Officer), that he educated me as to the importance of branding my 'AHA' moment, and coined the term (which became the name of the company): MOTORIOUS. Though no formal trademark application was filed (as we were advised), we made sure we had first public use of this term to make it clear we intended to commercialize it, and placed it into the world wide web, used it in television advertising for six months on national television, and used it in several trade shows where over one million people were witness to its use in several forms (in the year 2000). My understanding is that in the United States, the formal application for a trademark is not necessary, as long as one can point to the history of the word, and prove "origin", "ownership" and "intent to commercialize". I'd be interested in hearing anyone else's thoughts on this subject.

by Joaquin Grech gomendio | February 20, 2008 at 4:29 PM

As promised, I finished reading the book and I'm posting a small comment. I liked the book overall but I was a bit disappointed with the statement on this post and the book itself: The most important thing Ive learned is that it's a normal function of the human mind. You can indeed learn it, and teach it. Learn it and teach it. That was my only disappointment from the book. It would be hard to argue from this book that strategic intuition is not DNA related. I saw very little text dedicated to the subject of how to train yourself to be more open to these eureka moments and a lot dedicated to historical proofs. Elaborating more on techniques or finding ways to increase the natural links created by your brain, would add value to the text.

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