18 Mar 2015

Innovation and the Myth of the ‘Aha!’ Moment


Inspiration is often imagined as lightning striking, or a lightbulb flicking on in a person's mind. Linda A. Hill sees it very differently.

Hill is the Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, where she studies organizational creativity and innovation. One of her chief findings to-date has been that magical "Aha!" moments of creative inspiration are actually exceedingly rare and almost never consistently come from one individual. Instead, Hill's research has shown that innovation and creativity are best accomplished through cooperation and regimented best practices, which she discussed in presenting to TEDxCambridge in 2014.

Hill's 2014 work "Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation" is a kind of innovator's cookbook, a study and compilation of recipes for creativity employed by some of the world's most innovative organizations. On an episode of the HBS podcast The Business, for instance, Hill discussed how companies like Pixar demonstrate that while the creative process is usually messy and iterative, it requires a surprising amount of structure and funding to consistently facilitate.

Hill's work extends to leadership, as well, where she says it is now all but a requirement that company heads can think in visionary terms themselves, and inspire their teams to do so time and again.

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