The unique power of the “creative prelude”

In the latest of his eight books, SCRAMBLE, Marty Neumeier provides a fictional account of a young CEO in trouble. He and his team have five weeks to reimagine their company. If the board approves their plan, they’ll live to fight another day. If not, they’ll lose their jobs, their company, and everything they’ve been working for.

One of the most valuable concepts in the narrative is the unique power of the “creative prelude.”

“Every brainiac from Aristotle to Einstein has extolled the merits of incubation, the period between absorbing a problem and finding its solution. It might take five minutes in the shower. Or an hour’s walk in the woods. Some of the greatest artists and scientists hit upon remarkable ideas after spending a few weeks on vacation, doing nothing. During these quiet periods the logical mind lays fallow, allowing the subconscious to work behind the scenes to produce a sudden flash of insight. Worth a try.”

Sometimes the breakthrough occurs during a “Eureka! Moment” attributed to Archimedes. But there are other moments such as what Isaac Asimov describes: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny.’” Asimov also observed, “People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.”

I agree with Neumeier that some answers to questions and some solutions to problems simply cannot be forced. Like newborn eagles, they need time to develop.

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