Hunches usually die from neglect. They go to die where they won't be given a second look. They begin to die, like the tiny fairy Tinkerbell in the story of Peter Pan, from not getting believed in anymore. Ugly hunches get profiled in error as "never going to amount to anything worthwhile" from their unimpressive beginnings. They then get shelved, stored or filed in ways that ensure that they are easily forgotten. It's as if we believe that hunches ought to be awesome from the git go. Never mind any slow process of maturing, ripening or pairing with other ill-formed hunches.
There's no way to take a second look exactly like the first look. It's like our inability to step into the same river twice, as Heraclitus famously observed. The next time we consider a previous hunch we're coming from a different place, placing it in a different context and pondering different questions about it. The hunch may speak to different issues now. It may seem valuable in other arenas or pursuits. It may reveal what's missing and needing further exploration. Taking a good look at it again may get it seem pretty good looking and impressive.
It's become possible to capture and store our hunches digitally. This can be a game changer when trying to keep ugly hunches alive and well. In digital formats, we don't need to revisit a hunch as it was originally recorded on paper. We can find it searching with different keywords, questions or problems in mind. I do that with the archive for this blog. I'll vaguely recall a hunch I had a couple years ago without remembering much about it. I can search the archive for what the hunch was about, how I explained it or what I thought it signified. When I find it, it looks very different to me than my vague recollection of it. It may look useless to my current thoughts or much more valuable than I expected. Lots of people find this blog doing Google, Bing, Yahoo or Ask searches with keywords or phrases. You can even search this archive in particular with the box in the upper left corner on the web page for this blog. Digitized content makes it easy for hunches to ripen into full maturity.
Welcome to my world of keeping fragile hunches from suffering neglect or going to die where they will never be given a second look.
Here are my other explorations of the seven fractal patterns of innovation in Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson:
- Migrating to the adjacent possible (adjacent possible)
- How do good ideas behave (liquid networks pattern)
- Where hunches go to die (slow hunches)
- Setting up accidental discoveries (serendipity)
- Benefiting from errors (errors)
- Getting psyched for exaptation (exaptation)
- Flourishing on emergent platforms (emergent platforms)