Chance favors the prepared mind.
Louis Pasteur, chemist and microbiologist
What Pasteur, the chap who invented pasteurization, is talking about is being able to recognize an aha moment when it comes. And even further, that you'll know it when it happens. Why? Because you've probably already been hard at work to solve a particular problem and it's been mulled over by your brain several times. Other times, an aha moment happens when we least expect it, when our minds are put in neutral and we're not even really dwelling consciously on it.
Alternatively, someone else can nudge an aha moment, which happens when we talk a problem through or bounce ideas off each other. Then suddenly problems and ideas we've been working on for days, weeks or years, come into sharp focus. Rather than the prepared mind, maybe chance favors collaboration more. That's a notion that author Steven Johnson, writer of "Where Do Good Ideas Come From," talks about in this video we recently came across. Take a look and notice how collaboration may be just the spark to create that brilliant flash of insight:
What really spoke to us was when Steven talked about how real breakthroughs happen when hunches collide with other hunches. Having an environment where that can happen is crucial. In other words, we need spaces where collaboration is both encouraged and physically feasible. Or as Steven puts it in the video:
The great driver of specific innovation and technological innovation has been the historical increase in connectivity and are ability to reach out and exchange ideas with other people.
Think of it this way, sparks of insights happen best when people can collide with other people. Have that chance discussion in the office, where two people (or more) can hash things out, bring together their hunches and create a viable idea or solution.
Having a Chance Discussion
Which is why we're not just a distributed office, where we're all cloistered in different buildings or divided into desperate groups. Our current office is open to create that collision of hunches and people. It breeds collaboration. Our new home will be the same. This encourages the chance meeting, the impromptu discussion.
The best example of this was our recent ZURBwired event where we updated the website for Family Giving Tree and also created several print materials for their One Millionth Child celebration. During that hectic 24 hours, we were broken into different teams that handled one specific part: content writing, visual design and website design. But we didn't let the team monikers stop us from seeking each other out, or just having that causal conversation with a member of another team.
In one instance, a designer on the web design team caught one of the content writers walking from one end of the office to another. The designer didn't feel the copy that was written actually fit the slider image that would appear on the Family Giving Tree website. He had a suggestion on what would make it better, but didn't have the exact wording. Together, both the designer and writer had a meeting of minds where an ah-ha moment jumped out at them. The solution resulted in the text that now appears on the website.
We listen and talk to one another, which is fostered even more by the layout of our offices. Occasionally, we have heated debates, testing out ideas and challenge each others assumptions. Having a prepared mind may help you recognize those aha moments, but connecting with others can spark them a lot faster. As Steven said, "Chance favors the connected mind."