Reads: The Myth of Epiphany

The myth of epiphany is that great ideas dawn upon you in an a-ha moment. Take for example the popular story of an apple falling on Newton’s head when he discovered gravity or Archimedes’ eureka moment in the bathtub. But what those stories seem to miss out is the significant amount of work that they’ve poured into solving related problems, and that it’s only when they took a break and let their minds wander that the answer came to them. We mustn’t overlook that there is work that leads up to those a-ha moments. There is a period of incubation where we try to digest the information that we’ve observed as we work on things, and our brains are catching up with all that’s been observed. Then if we’re lucky, the answer or the great idea comes to us at an instance that seems so out of the blue that it makes for a good story.

One quote from Ted Hoff (inventor of the first microprocessor, Intel’s 4004) said it best:

“… If you’re always waiting for that wonderful breakthrough, it’s probably never going to happen. Instead, what you have to do is keep working on things. If you find something that looks good, follow through with it.”


The Myth of Epiphany is from a chapter in Scott Berkun’s book, The Myths of Innovation.

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2 thoughts on “Reads: The Myth of Epiphany

  1. Thanks for the mention. I think about Hoff often – so many great inventors like him get less attention simply because they refused to play into the popular myths. There are great inventors in the present too who seek progress more than fame. I hope to honor them more.

    • Hi, Scott! Thanks for taking the time to write a comment. I had to get quickly get over the “OMG was that really him” phase before getting around to say thanks!

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