The “Aha!” Moment

By | 2016-11-04T16:57:55+00:00 January 22, 2014|Insights, Right Hemisphere, Viewpoints|

Tales from the Right Hemisphere, the blog that plugs into the right brain and connects the emotional and intuitive actions that result in decisions.

What happened when you last went “Aha!”?

Perhaps, like Archimedes, you ran naked down the street shouting “Eureka!” Which, when translated, means “I found it.”

The “Aha!” moment has been defined as the sudden arrival of a solution to a problem that until that moment had appeared unsolvable. The solution not only arrives out of the blue but also seems a clear and obvious answer when it arrives.

Neuroscience has been investigating the source of the “Aha!” moment for many years. One theory suggests that the brain is working on the problem unconsciously before the solution arrives. Immediately before the solution arrives, there is a flash of activity in the right hemisphere anterior superior temporal gyrus. This is the area of the brain associated with making connections across distantly related information.

If we consider the arrival of the “Aha!” moment as the unconscious ability to make connections of distantly related information, how do we promote more “Aha!” moments?

Studies have shown you can dramatically increase the arrival of “Aha!” moments. Here are three tips for you:

#1 Information gathering is key.

The right information will help you solve the problem. Read broadly around your topic; investigate the business and human aspects of the problem you are trying to solve.

#2 Positive mood

People in a positive mood are more likely to have “Aha!” moments than those in a negative state. Apparently, being anxious brings on tunnel vision and being happy causes the brain to access a wider range of information. Happiness promotes the ability to make connections across distantly related information.

#3 Don’t try to solve the problem

The active pursuit of a solution will not prompt the “Aha!” moment. In fact, studies have shown that you will actually delay or even prevent its arrival.  Active problem solving uses working memory. It is at the forefront of your consciousness occupying your attention to the exclusion of other thoughts.  Your focus on active problem solving will get in the way of the “Aha!” moment’s arrival.

If you think back to your last “Aha!” moment it most likely arrived while you were occupied with a simple repetitive task, looking out the window or perhaps when you were sleeping. Essentially your brain was at rest and your mind was wandering. While at rest, your brain is free to make the distant connections, and the “Aha!” moment arrives with a feeling of brilliance and usually a nice dash of euphoria. We like “Aha!” moments – they feel good.

Juliet Funt conducts seminars on WhiteSpace, which is improvised or unscheduled time to let your thoughts wander. This generates a number of benefits, including creativity, patience, increased productivity and a positive mood. Try it – you might like it.

To sum up, in order to arrive at insight, we need well-informed, happy people with wandering minds.

Have you ever seen that in a job description?

Let me know, I’m here.

About the Author:

Malcolm MacKenzie
SVP, Strategic Planning and Customer Insights

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