Book Review – Where Good Ideas Come From

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

By Steven Johnson, Published 2010

All of Steve Johnson’s books take seemingly mundane topics and turn them into fascinating stories, intertwined with science, history and human behavior. His latest effort, Where Good Ideas Come From is no exception. With such concepts as the adjacent possible, exaptation, liquid networks, the slow hunch, serendipity ,and platforms, he reveals a discovery process that is much more probable, and probably more accurate, than the eureka experience documented by so many idea generators from history. Much credit goes to the tinkerers and those willing to commit errors. One may wonder how Johnson pulls a book of ideas together like this. He shares one of the tools that he uses, DEVONthink, a personal digital journal, database and semantics analyzer. You’ll express dismay as Johnson shares how disconnected our various government entities are that pursue terrorists and marvel at the efficiency of open systems (e.g. universities). It would seem, based on his analysis, that most of the innovation from history comes from a methodical approach, building on the work of others, and an occasional bit of luck.

Rating: ♦♦♦♦◊

Recommendation: Read it and then head back to your lab, or garage, for the next great innovation in…

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