A ZURB fan recently passed along a nifty video after reading our recent post about the importance of iteration. Just to recap, we said that to get an aha moment, you have to get there incrementally, through iteration. In other words, there are no shortcuts to an aha moment.
The video features bestselling author and journalist Jonah Lehrer, who writes mostly about psychology and neuroscience. Here he's talking about aha moments and how they don't happen by focusing too much on the problem. Take a look:
What's interesting is that Lehrer is talking about the exact spark of an aha moment, the specific second when the neurons fire, but not everything that leads up to that. Don't get Lehrer wrong, even he acknowledges that you've had to have been working on the problem in some fashion. Or as he says:
Simmering on the problem the whole time ... washing your hair and there's the answer.
The key to what Lehrer is saying is that you have to be simmering on the problem. Answers don't come out of nowhere. Neither do aha moments. Sure they happen when you tune out the world, look away from the problem. Aha moments happen when you put your brain in neutral, so to speak. But that's when your mind is in the perfect place, as Lehrer states, to listen to that part of your brain.
Think of it this way, it's not that you're actually forgetting the problem. Rather it's when your brain is at its most receptive to put together the seemingly disparate pieces of the problem. All that to say, you don't get to that flash of insight by not working at the problem at all. You have to put in the hard work beforehand. In other words, let the problem simmer.
How do you simmer on a problem?