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The myth of the eureka moment and the real story of innovation

Talk of Iowa, hosted by Charity Nebbe

A psychologist explains how myriad innovations arose from context, consequence and coincidence — not some moment of brilliance. And a preview from the directors bringing "Black Nativity" to the Quad Cities.

The butterfly stroke. The Heimlich maneuver. The light bulb. All were incredible innovations, that seemingly originated overnight. But a new book argues the opposite.

In As If By Design: How Creative Behaviors Really Evolve, author Edward A. Wasserman explains how context, consequence and coincidence have more to do with innovation than any "eureka" moment. On this episode of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe teases out wide-ranging examples of achievement resulting from iterating waves of trial and error.

Then we hear from the minds bringing Langston Hughes' Black Nativity to Moline, Illinois. The production will take place between December 10 and 12 at Playcrafters Barn Theater. Tickets are available online.


  • Edward A. Wasserman, professor of psychology at the University of Iowa
  • Karen Robuck, director of Black Nativity
  • Joseph Obleton, producer and assistant director of Black Nativity
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Dennis Reese was the mid-day host for Iowa Public Radio
Zachary Oren Smith is a reporter covering Eastern Iowa