Where Good Ideas Come From

Steven Johnson book, ISBN:978-1-59448-771-2

This 2010 book adduces seven conditions that enable discoveries and inventions (Huge Invention, Breakthrough, Generative), each of which gets its own chapter.

  • 1) The Adjacent Possible (Stuart Kauffman): The inventor must use the components that exist in his environment. Gutenberg used a wine press for his printing press. Engineers used analog vacuum tubes to make digital computers.
  • 2) Liquid networks: Large cities (Urban), and now the Internet, make it possible for loose, informal networks to form, and these enable discoveries. (scenius)
  • 3) The Slow Hunch: It can take years for a hunch to blossom into a full-blown invention.
  • 4) Serendipity: Some examples are mentioned: LSD, Teflon, Viagra, etc. Johnson argues that serendipity is not really under threat from Google, etc.
  • 5) Error (Failure): This can also be a creative force. Lee de Forest's development of the audion diode and the triode was the result of erroneous thinking, and de Forest never understood how they worked. But the inventions changed the world.
  • 6) Exaptation: Birds developed feathers to keep warm and regulate their body temperature and later used them for flight. Vacuum tubes were developed for long-distance telephone networks and radio transmission and were later used for electronic computers. This story was repeated with transistors.
  • 7) Platforms: Platforms are the complex constructions which bring other increasingly complex Innovation-s within the realm of the adjacent possible. This is similar to Daniel Dennett's conception of 'cranes' He gives the example of the development of the Transit satellite, a precursor of GPS, by the Applied Physics Laboratory. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Johnson_(author)#Where_Good_Ideas_Come_From

John Battelle reviews it. Includes screenshot mapping past inventions to quadrant based on individual-vs-Networked and Market-vs-Non-Market - the biggest bunch is in Networked/Non-Market - This doesn’t mean those ideas don’t become the basis for commerce – quite the opposite in fact. But this is a book about how good ideas are created, not how they might be exploited.


Longer summary: http://innovationgarden.typepad.com/innovation-garden/2012/01/where-good-ideas-come-from-by-steven-johnson-a-book-summary.html

Edited: |