Works of Brilliance Come From Great Processes, Not Great Ideas

You rarely see how the sausage got made

Emre Soyer
Published in
5 min readSep 9, 2020


Digital generated image of abstract multi colored donut/pie chart on pastel green background.
Photo: Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images

Co-authored by Robin M. Hogarth

Think of a creative concept that helped to shape the life and culture of the 21st century.

Harry Potter is one example. So is Google. The personal computer is another one.

If you try to list various factors behind the success of whatever idea you thought of, they will likely spring to mind with ease. The Harry Potter books, for example, give us an underdog hero who grows and develops together with the reader. Audiences of all ages can find something for themselves in this saga: friendship, adventure, struggle, love, hate, good, evil.

Google’s search engine lets us find exactly what we are looking for on the web in a matter of seconds, a simple yet incredibly powerful service that allowed the company to expand in many directions.

And the personal computer is indispensable and ubiquitous, giving users access to a world of communication, information, entertainment, and experience.

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to understand, analyze, and communicate why a successful innovation worked. But pretend you could time travel back to the moment when each of these ideas had been conceived, but had not yet risen to its current place of prominence. Try to imagine what most experienced professionals in the domain would have felt when they first heard about the idea.

Surely, if multiple reasons for the popularity and success of an idea are that obvious to us now, many of these same reasons ought to have been immediately evident to such experts. Their experience should have helped them better foresee the eventual outcome, make better decisions, and profit, right?

Not really.

In practice, the more innovative and creative an idea, the likelier that it clashed with people’s experience in that field. And this clash ensured that the idea was…



Emre Soyer
Writer for

behavioral scientist, co-author of The Myth of Experience