"[‘Hunch’ tells the story of] those successful entrepreneurs, creatives and innovators—people just like you—who have harnessed their curiosity, empathy and imagination, seeking out opportunities to invent, create and serve."
Through her illustrious career, and as the bestselling author of several books, Bernadette Jiwa has helped brands employ the power of storytelling to communicate their message. Now, with Hunch: Turn Your Everyday Insights Into the Next Big Thing, she has turned her focus to the power of cultivating your intuition. “Through my work and previous books, I’ve taken people on a journey that leads them from telling the story of their ideas to understanding what makes ideas fly. This book goes one step further. It tells the story of people who have practiced using what they know and questioning what they don’t.”
Jiwa contends that the brightest ideas are often borne out of intuition rather than analyzing hard data, corporate brainstorming sessions, or customer focus groups, and that great ideas are rarely, if ever, stumbled upon. Instagram. Starbucks. The Dyson vacuum cleaner. None of these reinvented the wheel (contrary to popular belief, coffee and coffee shops did, in fact, exist prior to Starbucks). What they did, and did brilliantly, however, was to meet a need and fill a void.
New As and Bs
"The reality is that truly creative solutions often begin by reimagining the problem or reframing the starting point and the end goal. True innovation isn't about finding an alternative that gets us from A to B; it's about envisaging new As and Bs. It's about being open to redefining where problems begin and where solutions must end and working out why it matters that we make these new connections or forge different paths."
What became abundantly clear to me as I read my way through Hunch is that the cornerstone of every “big thing” is a solution to a problem—even if it’s one you didn’t know you had.
Jiwa shares the inspiring story of Richard Turere, a boy from Kenya who had been tasked with the important responsibility of minding his family’s herd of cattle and protecting them from the lions which stalked the cowshed at night. He had a lightbulb moment when he realized that the lions would steer clear if they detected the presence of humans. The result was Lion Lights, which, through the movement of light, created that illusion. “Anyone could have done it,” Jiwa explains, “but it took a curious and determined eleven-year old boy to begin to solve a problem that a whole community and countless officials had wrestled with for years.”
Another example that I love (but one that wasn’t included in the book), is the backstory behind the creation of YouTube. One of the founders of the popular video-sharing website was dismayed when he was unable to locate the clip of Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction during the 2004 SuperBowl half-time show. While videos had been posted online for years at that point, there was never a dedicated platform where users could conveniently upload them in one spot. YouTube has since left an indelible mark on our culture, and odds are good that you’ve fallen down the YouTube rabbit hole once or twice in the last week alone.
So, where do ideas begin? Jiwa cites social psychologist Graham Wallace, who believed that the creative process is comprised of four stages:
- Preparation: start with the question. Begin with a question to answer, a problem to solve or an opportunity to realize. Research and gather the information and context.
- Incubation: look for answers. Contemplate the problem and challenge assumptions. This stage is both conscious and unconscious, informed by what you know, questioning what you don’t know but believe to be true, and by your skills and expertise.
- Illumination: find solutions. Generate insights that give birth to ideas about how the problem will be solved or the opportunity realized.
- Verification: try and test. Execute your idea and test to see if it works.
Evaluate Your Ideas
"In our 'think tank' and start-up culture, the importance we place on simply having ideas is overrated. Our energies would be better directed towards improving and evaluating the quality of our ideas before we begin to execute them."
Once you’ve come up with your unique idea, Jiwa offers six steps to help you “evaluate and improve” them:
- FOCUS: Prioritize undistracted thinking time.
- NOTICE: Practice paying attention to behaviors, patterns and anomalies.
- QUESTION: Get into the habit of questioning.
- DISCERN: Determine which ideas might be worth pursuing first.
- PREDICT: Translate insight into foresight.
- TRY AND TEST: Get feedback by testing.
Deep thought is a skill that we need to hone to the extent that it becomes second nature. This can seem almost insurmountable in our world of almost 24/7 connectivity, but if you’re intentional about it you’ll achieve great success.
Ideas vs. Opportunities
"There's a subtle difference between ideas and what makes them opportunities."
What separates an idea from an opportunity is, as Jiwa says, subtle, but there’s a very important distinction. She defines the two this way:
IDEAS = SOLUTIONS IN SEARCH OF PROBLEMS
OPPORTUNITIES = PROBLEMS BEGGING FOR A SOLUTION
Jiwa offers two examples to illustrate the difference between an idea and an opportunity. Firmly in the idea category is the Segway. Do you remember those? The Segway is a self-balancing “two-wheeled, battery powered vehicle” that hit the market in 2001. They never became the next big thing and Jiwa explains why: “Without a clear target market, or adequate consideration about the context in which the Segway would be used… it failed to become widely accepted and adopted by consumers.”
The shopping cart, on the other hand, is a brilliant example of an opportunity. Sylvan Goldman, owner of the Humpty Dumpty chain of American supermarkets, discerned that the majority of shoppers would bring their selections to the checkout as soon as the basket was full or became too heavy to carry. To encourage his customers to shop more, he enlarged the basket and put four wheels on the bottom and voila, the prototype of the shopping cart as we know it was born. So, the next time you’re navigating the aisles of your local supermarket with ease, you can thank Sylvan Goldman—or curse him for the extra space the cart affords for that box of cookies.
For your “hunch” to truly succeed and endure, and not just become another flash in the pan that will be quickly consigned to oblivion, you need to offer something tangible–an opportunity that is more than a mere idea.
“There are hundreds of books that can help you with the process of making ideas happen,” Bernadette Jiwa acknowledges. “This is the one you need before you get to the execution stage.” Filled with fascinating case studies and action steps to help you strengthen your intuition muscle, Hunch is an invaluable tome for equipping you with the tools to help you come up with the next big thing that’s going to rock our world.
I have a hunch that you’re really going to love it.