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Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (2010)

by Steven Johnson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,5955411,091 (3.88)11
Johnson addresses an urgent and universal question: What sparks the flash of brilliance? How does groundbreaking innovation happen? He provides the complete, exciting, and encouraging story of how the ideas are born that push careers, lives, society, and culture forward.

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» See also 11 mentions

English (52)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (54)
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
pick up with Chapter 4 Serendipity
  pollycallahan | Jul 1, 2023 |
Another highly readable book. Johnson is an excellent synthesizer, and if that sounds patronizing it shouldn't. He does his research and, even better, thinks imaginatively about what he's discovered. For me, the good ideas in this book weren't new, but they were well explained and sometimes brilliantly presented. His opening, for example, that links Darwin's coral reefs to urban statistics to the stories of HDTV and YouTube manages to be beautifully focused and sprawling in implications at the same time. Worth reading, certainly. ( )
  VOlsen | Jun 14, 2023 |
[b:Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation|8034188|Where Good Ideas Come From The Natural History of Innovation|Steven Johnson|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1280234267s/8034188.jpg|12645873] by [a:Steven Johnson|1563|Steven Johnson|http://photo.goodreads.com/authors/1209398919p2/1563.jpg] is an outstanding book exploring the realms of creativity. Johnson traces the history of innovation from the early inventors through today, and attempts to determine how best to foster invention. Some of his results are somewhat surprising, as he finds that large cities have been one of the leading indicators of the places innovation springs from. He also explores how the internet has become the place for some of the collaboration previously possible only in large cities.

While small companies and academia may be able to put into practice his recommendations for fostering innovation, I doubt that many large companies will be willing to take the long term view required as they tend to be too focused on quarterly results, to worry about long term creativity. ( )
  lpg3d | Nov 12, 2022 |
Good until he got to the end and tried to get quantitative and thorough with an arbitrary list of innovations.
  jcvogan1 | Jul 17, 2022 |
This is a quick readable summary the properties that seem to encourage the generation of good ideas. None of the chapters are particularly deep, but more and the book would felt too long for what it was. Johnson describes 7 ingredients of creativity, be it in the sense of generating good ideas or in the creativity of evolution or the ecosystem of innovation.

The adjacent possible: Good ideas tend to be conceptually adjacent to what we already know. It's not that people cannot think of good ideas that are further away. However, ideas that are too far away from the now tend to not go anywhere: whether conceptually or technically, we are just not ready to implement them yet.

Liquid networks: Like a gas, liquids can flow and rearrange themselves. Like a solid, liquids allow molecules to get close enough that they can form bonds that last a non-trivial amount of time. By analogy, creative networks should be liquid. They should balance stability and variety to allow for the greatest number of ideas to have a chance to come together and stay together long enough to generate something new.

The Slow Hunch: We like to tell stories about the "ah hah!" moment, the moment when all of the pieces came together. However, this moment, if it even exists as a singular moment, is usually preceded by the slow hunch. Over days, weeks, years the delicate seed grows as it encounters other related ideas. It takes on detail and structure until eventually it is a full fledged insight. Without this time, the insight will never emerge.

Serendipity: It is not enough for ideas to connect over time in liquid networks. The right ideas need to connect. This is where serendipity comes in. There is definitely an element of luck at play in connecting ideas. However, as the saying goes, "luck favors the prepared." Having a slow hunch growing in the background makes one more attuned to the whisper of serendipitous connections.

Error: Errors are bad, right? Wrong! Errors are key to the creative process. This is partially a numbers game: the people who generate the most good ideas are usually people who generate the most ideas, period. So they have bad ideas too. But it is more than that. Erroneous ideas knock us out of our familiar ways of thinking. Often, erroneous ideas lead us to good ideas: "That was wrong, but if we tweak this a little... yes!"

Exaptation: This is a biological term wherein parts created for one purpose are repurposed for another purpose. E.g., feathers that were initially used for insulation evolve for flight. Good ideas often have elements of exaptation. Old parts are repurposed for new uses. Technical ideas are used in different ways. Ideas are shared between fields. This mixing of ideas can quickly expand the adjacent possible.

Platforms: The world is full of infrastructure. A coral reef is infrastructure for all of the life it supports. The internet is infrastructure for all of the use cases it supports. Roads and pipes are infrastructure for the physical world. The value of infrastructure is that it saves us from having to do everything ourselves. It's the implementation analog to the adjacent possible. A great idea that is technically possible — video over the internet, for example — may become practically, even if not theoretically, impossible if we have to start by building computers. Platforms ratchet up the level of innovation that's possible over time.

Are these ideas the final word on innovation? Certainly not! However, they are good food for thought as we think about how to build systems and environments — institutions, communities, cities, biological ecosystems — which can support creative, innovative ideas. Johnson has provided us a handy guide to a bunch of useful ideas for this thought process. ( )
  eri_kars | Jul 10, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
Especially for people in business or education, it’s a worthwhile book. It talks about the institutional structures that facilitate good ideas – how you get lots of people thinking about cutting edge problems, how you put people together in a space where different skill sets and influences can come together, how you make the right kinds of materials available but don’t force a conclusion.
check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NugRZG...
Like The Tipping Point and Freakonomics it goes beyond the traditional 'big think’ guides that promise to teach us how to get ahead or why things went so wrong; instead, it explores what makes us tick, and as a result might actually have an impact far beyond the boardroom.
added by mikeg2 | editThe Telegraph, Hollis. Leo (Nov 21, 2010)

» Add other authors (8 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Steven Johnsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Benvegnù, BrunaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Borges, Maria Luiza X. de A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cantoni, E.Traduttoresecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnson, Steven Berlinsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kruis, Richardsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pfingstl, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pietiläinen, KimmoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Johnson addresses an urgent and universal question: What sparks the flash of brilliance? How does groundbreaking innovation happen? He provides the complete, exciting, and encouraging story of how the ideas are born that push careers, lives, society, and culture forward.

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