Tech Line

All “Aha!” Moments Won’t Change the World—But They Can Change Your Business

We’ve all had “aha” moments. And, no, I don’t mean that time in the ‘80s when “Take on Me” was a guilty pleasure. What I mean is, when, suddenly, something you never considered before becomes clear as glass: That’s what ahas are all about.  

Usually these are simple ahas. Many of them, for instance, have been turned into “hacks” on the internet today—from how to best peel a pineapple to how to flip over-easy eggs using the top of the pan. There are thousands and thousands of them.  

Others might be about people or places. I just learned yesterday that Albert Einstein was a “determinist” and did not believe in free will. The story goes that when asked about any personal responsibility he had for his staggering achievements, he made clear his belief that free will does not exist: “I claim credit for nothing. Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human being, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to an invisible tune, intoned in the distance by a mysterious player.” A mysterious player? That's quite an aha.

Breakthroughs Come Suddenly

It’s even more interesting when you consider that, according to many historians, Einstein himself experienced a world-changing aha moment. According to the University of Toronto Magazine, in 1907, at age 28 (just two years after his “annus mirabellis,” during which he published his groundbreaking work on special relativity), the physicist was working in the patent office in Bern, Switzerland, when, by his own account, a breakthrough came suddenly one day. Instead of keeping his mind on his work, his thoughts wandered to, "If a man falls freely he would not feel his weight." Einstein’s response to his thought was immediate: "I was taken aback."

This simple thought experiment made a deep impression on him. By linking accelerated motion and gravity, Einstein eventually created his masterwork, the general theory of relativity. However, “it took him eight years to work through the mathematical details.” As noted in a New Yorker article of a few years ago: “In general, creativity seems to come when insight is combined with the hard work of analytical processing. A person can’t discover the theory of general relativity in a dream if he isn’t a physicist who has done some heavy thinking about the subject beforehand.”

Ahas in Business

The business world is littered with aha moments, too (just do a Google search of “aha moments” to see). One of the more interesting ones, according to, is the GoPro camera, which surfer Nick Woodman invented when he became disappointed that he couldn’t take pictures of himself while riding the waves. A guy vain enough to want action selfies invents the GoPro camera. Aha, indeed.

Then there’s the origins of Ikea. The idea of flat-pack furniture came to Ingvar Kamprad when he saw someone taking the legs off a table to squeeze it into a car. This led to the Swedish business magnate founding IKEA in 1943.

There are hundreds more such stories of big ahas that have changed the course of science or business or history. But ahas, both big and small, can be found in many different places, including the world of business marketing.  

According to Chip and Dan Heath, authors of The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact,it is possible for marketers to create 'moments of insight' that will help your audience recognize a problem so they can fully appreciate the solution you provide. These moments deliver realizations and transformations."  

Much like Einstein’s “thought experiment,” aha moments should always take place in the minds of the audience. When people experience an aha moment, they often act on it because they’ve become believers without any form of coercion.

The three components necessary for convincing your audience to embrace this model include:

• Clear insight that should leave very little room for disagreement or debate.

• An experience that is quick and impactful.

• A moment of discovery by the recipient.

‘Trip Over the Truth’

What does this mean for marketers? There are many ways to use direct mail to pique curiosity. And the right technology will help deliver insights while connecting prospects and customers to the organization’s entire marketing ecosystem.

“To produce moments of insight for others,” the Heaths write, “we can cause [people] to ‘trip over the truth’ by revealing a clear insight [to be] discovered by the audience.” Having a sudden realization or even revelation—something that was not thought about or observed before but is felt to be viscerally right—is “tripping over the truth.”

In other words, while maybe not on par with general relativity or even an Ikea bed (although it could be), these defining moments can, in a flash, change the way someone sees they world. There is no better way to connect with customers and prospects than offering them the opportunity to view a business challenge or problem in a new and unique way—even better when they also come to realize that your product or service can help them deal with it.  

To read more about how helping generate aha moments and insights can work for you and your customers, please download our“PFL’s Essential Guide To: Creating Customer Insight with Direct Mail” e-book. Also, read “Trip the Insight Fantastic” to see if you are ready, wise, and prepared enough to make use of an insight. You might be surprised.