Saturday, October 23, 2010

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

Book TV is broadcasting a good book talk by Steven Johnson about his book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. You can catch it tomorrow or at 2:00 am Monday.

I have read other of his works and he is an entertaining author with intriguing ideas.

He suggests that really innovative ideas usually develop over time and through discussions and interactions among people. One of his extrapolations from the stories of innovation that he has researched is that while it may be very useful to have (online) discussions of ideas in the search for important new concepts, it is important to do so in a way that the ideas presented are saved in an accessible form and can be revisited and added to over time (weeks or months or even years).

I quote from a review of the book:
Mr. Johnson's engaging writing style guides us through seven key areas that must be understood in order to maximize our creativity, the key areas being:

1. The adjacent possible - the principle that at any given moment, extraordinary change is possible but that only certain changes can occur (this describes those who create ideas that are ahead of their time and whose ideas reach their ultimate potential years later).

2. Liquid networks - the nature of the connections that enable ideas to be born, to be nurtured and to blossom and how these networks are formed and grown.

3. The slow hunch - the acceptance that creativity doesn't guarantee an instant flash of insight but rather, germinates over time before manifesting.

4.Serendipity - the notion that while happy accidents help allow creativity to flourish, it is the nature of how our ideas are freely shared, how they connect with other ideas and how we perceive the connection at a specific moment that creates profound results.

5. Error - the realization that some of our greatest ideas didn't come as a result of a flash of insight that followed a number of brilliant successes but rather, that some of those successes come as a result of one or more spectacular failures that produced a brilliant result.

6. Exaptation - the principle of seizing existing components or ideas and repurposing them for a completely different use (for example, using a GPS unit to find your way to a reunion with a long-lost friend when GPS technology was originally created to help us accurately bomb another country into oblivion).

7. Platforms - adapting many layers of existing knowledge, components, delivery mechanisms and such that in themselves may not be unique but which can be recombined or leveraged into something new that is unique or novel.

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