Join the Hunch Bunch

People ask where good ideas come from more often than kindergarteners ask where babies come from. And with the same sort of expectation that the answer might be a creature of undetermined origin swoops in and drops it on your desk in a neat and tidy bundle. Spoiler alert: this is not true. In either case.

In this video from renowned white-boardist Steven Johnson, he asks the question where good ideas come from and draws (Get it? He DRAWS. You see what I did there.) some notable conclusions about how ideas amble in to being. He talks about the “slow hunch” – that little nugget of an idea that hangs out in the back of your mind before it becomes a fully formed idea. And sometimes, that takes days, weeks, months and even years.

But where slow hunches pick up momentum is through collisions. I’m not talking about the kind of collision I have with door frames and parked cars and sometimes sidewalks. I’m talking about taking your hunch and bumping into another hunch with it – possibly someone else’s hunch. Because a bunch of hunches – that’s where ideas come from.

Here’s how to be more hunchable:

  • Heed your hunches. They’re half-baked kernels of ideas, but those little iotas could be great if you give them time or the right collision.
  • Have a hunch hub. Maybe it’s a Post-It note per nugget, a dry erase board message or (my preference) the unlined notebook. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Crack-Up includes the until-then unpublished scrawlings from his notebooks –single lines, paragraphs, character sketches. A hunch-a-palooza if you will.
  • Don’t hoard hunches. Fear of rejection or knowing that your idea isn’t “there” yet may keep you from wanting to share. But you should share. Remember GE’s big adorably hairy pink idea? Don’t be afraid of him.
  • Huddle up on hunches. Find a person with whom you feel comfortable sharing your early-stage thoughts. I have a co-worker who I routinely text with statements that begin with “What if we did something like [insert my latest wild notion]?” And he is always open to whatever I have to say and willing to build on my hunch.

Give yourself credit for having hunches. Not every one of them will turn into a great idea. But having a hunch – and a group of hunchers – has the potential to hatch high-caliber strategic thinking.