The Slow Hunch

Posted by Maia Rocklin

The best ideas do not always come out of a “aha!” moment. Instead, many of them are formed through a process known as a slow hunch, as explained by Steven Johnson in his book, Where Good Ideas Come From.

What’s a “Slow Hunch?”

It is incredibly rare for someone to suddenly discover the next great/big thing. Instead, periods of technological innovation and evolution converge to become a hypothesis, which can then be tested. Innovators can use a trial and error system to take what starts as a hunch and refine it over time. Though it may not be the fastest system, a slow hunch can lead toward revolutionary ideas. 

One ingredient that we at Iterate find essential to take a hunch to the next level is collaboration. Through this, a team can take someone’s idea and share it between each other, building upon it. When confronted with a challenge, one mind may only see one solution to that challenge. When collaborating and communicating with others, new and better solutions may be found. Consequently, differing perspectives and backgrounds coming together by cross-sharing knowledge can turn that hunch into a full-fledged and innovative idea. 

Building a Collaborative Workplace

Collaboration can help to drive a slow hunch into a great idea, and it’s critical to create a collaborative workplace to be set for success. The following are some key steps to build this space. 

  1. Cultivate openness and transparency: Try to be candid with your employees about company goals and challenges to establish a layer of trust, as well as to keep everyone in the know.
  2. Establish a judgment-free idea-sharing culture: It can be difficult to actively engage if participants have a fear of rejection. Therefore, it is important to make it known that ideas and discussions are always welcome and wanted.
  3. Encourage collaboration across departments: Different people types and skill sets leads to more effective collaboration and idea-making. The more perspectives, the better.
  4. Lead from the top down: Foster an open-door policy with frequent and fluid communication between different hierarchies of an organization. 
  5. Offer positivity and rewards: Rewards are a great way to encourage employees and boost motivation. 
  6. Have the right technology in place: Especially now, during the pandemic, when many companies’ staff are solely remote, it’s important to have technology in place that facilitates collaboration. Provide appropriate technological support for your employees that makes it easy to collaborate and share ideas. 

If you’d like to hear about slow hunches and more, join us at our next IterateOn event, Where Good Ideas Come From. Oftentimes, the best ideas come from unusual places and spaces. This event will shed light on some ways that you and your organization can ideate, test, and implement game changing outcomes. Sign up by emailing [email protected], tracking us on Twitter @IterateAI, or check out our full calendar of upcoming events at


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