'Eureka!' Is Just A Starting Point

The story is age-old. It’s said that Archimedes was the first to utter the term, having the very first eureka moment when he hit upon a solution to a problem given to him by a local tyrant. In the bathtub, when he realized he could use water displacement to identify whether the tyrant’s crown had silver in it instead of being solid gold, Archimedes shouted out “Eureka!” -- which translates as “I’ve found it!”

Many subsequent scientific discoveries have supposedly had eureka moments: Einstein’s theory of relativity. Newton’s discovery of gravity after getting dinged on the head with an apple.

Eureka! The almost magical solving of a problem in a lightning bolt of inspiration -- and the only word with an exclamation point glued to it.

But in most cases, especially in marketing and business, eureka isn’t the solution. It’s just the starting point. It’s AFTER eureka that the work starts.



There are three issues with “Eureka!”:

You may be left waiting for eureka to get started. In marketing, people often wait for a eureka moment when developing strategies and big marketing ideas. However, I’ve said before (as have other marketing pundits like Tom Peters and Herb Kelleher), that a strategy, even a brilliant one, is just a hypothesis. The magic of a strategy comes from its subsequent action and activation.

But unfortunately, people often wait and wait for that moment. As Mark Zuckerberg has said, the idea of the “eureka moment” makes others feel inadequate for not having one themselves. This often prevents those with just the seeds of an idea from getting started. Instead, starting with a beta version, a “quarter-eureka,” so to speak, is likely to be the best thing you can do.

Eurekas need to be activated to be useful. Consumers don’t see your strategy or your eureka. They only see your brand’s behaviors and its communications, the combination of their experiences with the brand.

Which is why the eureka itself is just the starting point. Eurekas require real work to bring them to life: real-world activation, adaptation and continual improvement. Think about the many campaigns that have changed over time. Or the brands that have built off their original concepts.

So while strategists are important to get you started, it’s important that you employ lots of “activists” to get you where you need to go.

Eurekas will evolve. The thing about eurekas is, you may think you know where you’re going, but you don’t. No matter how clean and perfect your eureka seems in your PowerPoint strategy document, it simply cannot capture all the nuances and different realities you’ll be facing and planning for.

Plus, ideas don’t come out fully formed. You can’t see into the future to understand all that your eureka can mean or be. The way ahead only become clear as you work on it.

As Naomi Simson, founder of RedBalloon, an Australian online gift retailer said, there are things she wished she had known at the start, but these lessons must be learned the hard way -- through doing the work.

And Facebook started as a way to connect the Harvard community. Zuckerberg and his colleagues had no intention to connect other universities, let alone the entire world.

So don’t pop those champagne corks just yet when you find yourself having a eureka moment. Instead, smile and know that your work is just beginning. And get ready to pressure test, activate, adapt, and evolve -- and then do it some more.

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