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Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

By Steven Johnson

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

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Started reading:
23rd November 2010
Finished reading:
16th December 2010

Review

Rating: 9

A great synthesis that attempts to get to the bottom of where “good ideas” or innovation comes from. By analyzing the history of innovative ideas of the last several hundred years, Steven Johnson is able to identify certain common characteristics. He draws examples ranging from Darwin’s explanation of how coral reefs form to Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press and to the invention of the world wide web. The author then gives us seven key factors that appear to be common to all environments where good ideas emerge easily and innovation thrives. He shows for example how coral reefs, cities and the world wide web are similar and explains what makes them fertile breeding ground for innovation and new ideas. There are many similar and fascinating insights in the book that are counter-intuitive and dispel certain myths about innovation – for example the myth of the lone-genius inventor working in isolation who gets a eureka moment and goes on to change the world. This is the exception rather than the rule. In the end open, interconnected, non-commercial, collaborative environments, where ideas are freely shared – not unlike academia or the world-wide-web are where innovation and good ideas thrive. A must-read book for anyone interested in innovation, creativity and ideas.