Not all insights are ground-breaking eureka moments where you experience a “dramatic feeling of sudden enlightenment that floods the mind when the right idea finally clicks into place”. The famous physicist Stephen Hawkins compares these “eureka” moments to sex.
There is a second type of insight which comes from solving a problem by linear logic and reasoning. Katherine Ramsland, the author of SNAP: Seizing Your Aha! Moments, calls these Ah! moments to distinguish them from Aha! insights. When you solve a problem by conscious disciplined reasoning, you experience the thrill and exhilarations that comes from discovering something new, fresh and valuable.
Potatoes + fire = food
Here is a story that illustrates the differences between Aha! and Ah! moments.
Imagine you are a prehistoric man. Winter is closing in and you and your family are starving. You accidentally dig up some potatoes, which at first sight look edible. You take a bite but quickly spit it out in disgust. Frustrated, you chuck the potato into the nearby fire.
A few hours later, when the fire has turned to embers, you pick the potato up, feel that it has softened, and tentatively take another bite. It’s delicious! For a few moments you stand there puzzled. How could something that was so tough and foul tasting become so tender and tasty?
Then a blinding Aha! flash of insight hits you. Potatoes plus fire equals food. You’ve discovered a valuable new food source. Your family will no longer starve.
In the spring, you come across a patch of squashes. These squashes look very similar to potatoes. Your analytic brain reasons, “If fire plus potatoes equals food, then maybe squashes plus fire will provide us with another source of food.” That’s an Ah! moment.