After Eureka: Four Ways to Capture an Aha Moment

By Elizabeth Usovicz, Principal of WhiteSpace Consulting, as part of a series she writes for ACA aimed at entrepreneurs, "Your Pitch is Just the Beginning."  

Do you remember your first Aha moment? Mine was in kindergarten.

I got a new lunchbox to start the school year, called a “Kaboodle Kit,” that pictured a girl and her friend walking to school.

One day, I noticed that the girl on my lunchbox was carrying a lunchbox with something written on it. The text was small but I could just make out the words: Kaboodle Kit. On that girl’s lunch box was another girl carrying a lunchbox...and on and on.

I didn't know what an Aha moment was at the time. But I vividly remember realizing that these girls carrying Kaboodle Kits on my lunch box went on forever. Lunch time would never be the same.

The Eureka or Aha moment is closely associated with startup innovation, but it’s a phenomenon that has been acknowledged for thousands of years. While it’s happening, an Aha moment may seem like the definitive point of success, revealed in a flash. The real value of sudden insights lies not in the moment, but in what happens after the Aha. Here are four ways to clarify the moment and harness its innovation potential.

Claim it: Get the Aha out of your head. Create a graphic image or map of the idea if you are a visual thinker, or outline it in keyword bullets and phrases. Describe subjective thoughts, feelings and unknowns associated with the idea, as well as objective characteristics.

Name it: An idea is a thought until it is expressed. Title the idea in a few words or a short phrase, with the understanding that it can be renamed or refined as the idea evolves into a concept.

Bounce it: Identify a few individuals with as sounding boards to bounce around your idea. Optimal sounding boards are individuals with good listening and questioning skills. Choose individuals based on their capability to help to clarify the concept, not solely on their likelihood of providing positive comments. Capture these perspectives in a map or key words.

Frame it: Review the initial map/keywords you created and the maps/key words that emerged in the sounding board conversations. Cluster similar themes or thought patterns from the maps and key words. Integrate them into a short and easy to remember description that expresses the idea, and can be used as a point of departure for exploring its potential. 

From new applications to business models, pivots or market breakthroughs, Aha moments have the power to transform thinking and lead to innovation. Capturing and clarifying these insights so that they can be shared and explored is the true point of departure for success.