Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation – Steven Johnson

Innovation, in its purest form it getting from A to B where B is making it – process/product/service – better. And the journey you take to arrive at B is innovation. I like to read as much as I can on innovation and Amazon knows and it recommended this book.

The work is an awesome and an enlightening read by Steven Johnson. It is an easy read and explains a lot of concepts in a clear and concise way.

There are seven exciting chapters which cover where good ideas come from.

1. The adjacent possible

2. Liquid networks

3. The slow hunch

4. Serendipity

5. Error

6. Exaptation (you pronounce it as Ex-zap-tation 😬)

7. Platforms.

The book is filled with annecdotes and makes for an interesting it. The chapters mentioned above themselves are the key take aways.

Few interesting insights

▶ Scientists and animal lovers had long observed that as life gets bigger, it slows down. Flies live for hours or days; elephants live for half-centuries.

▶ One lovely consequence of Kleiber’s law is that the number of heartbeats per lifetime tends to be stable from species to species. Bigger animals just take longer to use up their quota.

▶ West’s power laws suggested something far more provocative: that despite all the noise and crowding and distraction, the average resident of a metropolis with a population of five million people was almost three times more creative than the average resident of a town of a hundred thousand.

Newspapers reaction to TV boradcast in colour

The New York Times, in typical language, called it a “veritable bevy of hues and depth.” “To concentrate so much color information within the frame of a small screen,” the Times wrote, “would be difficult for even the most gifted artist doing a ‘still’ painting. To do it with constantly moving pictures seemed pure wizardry.”

▶ Call it the 10/10 rule: a decade to build the new platform, and a decade for it to find a mass audience.

▶ When we look at the history of innovation from the vantage point of the long zoom, what we find is that unusually generative environments display similar patterns of creativity at multiple scales simultaneously.

▶ If there is a single maxim that runs through this book’s arguments, it is that we are often better served by connecting ideas than we are by protecting them.

▶ Good ideas may not want to be free, but they do want to connect, fuse, recombine. They want to reinvent themselves by crossing conceptual borders. They want to complete each other as much as they want to compete.

▶ Sometime in the late 1870s, a Parisian obstetrician named Stephane Tarnier took a day off from his work at Maternité de Paris, the lying-in hospital for the city’s poor women, and paid a visit to the nearby Paris Zoo. Wandering past the elephants and reptiles and classical gardens of the zoo’s home inside the Jardin des Plantes, Tarnier stumbled across an exhibit of chicken incubators. Seeing the hatchlings totter about in the incubator’s warm enclosure triggered an association in his head, and before long he had hired Odile Martin, the zoo’s poultry raiser, to construct a device that would perform a similar function for human newborns.

▶ Good ideas are not conjured out of thin air; they are built out of a collection of existing parts, the composition of which expands (and, occasionally, contracts) over time. Some of those parts are conceptual: ways of solving problems, or new definitions of what constitutes a problem in the first place. Some of them are, literally, mechanical parts.