Kristine's Reviews > Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson
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's review
Dec 10, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: firstreads-netgalley, political-biz-econ-ish, non-fic, modern-lit
Read from September 29 to December 10, 2010

It is refreshing to get back into the modern non-fic genre after languishing for so long in average ya lit. So far the writing is more academic than Malcolm Gladwell, so I've been reading slower in smaller chunks - but the content is amazing. One of those it-will-change-the-way-you-think-and-see-things sort of books {which I love}.

It definitely has less "schtick" than maybe a freakonomics-y book. It is a study of innovators and creative geniuses. It seems that each chapter focuses on a different approach to "new ideas" and "hunches".

1) The Adjacent Possible - Every discovery opens up doors and windows to new discoveries. Without Flash and high speed internets You Tube could NOT have been invented, no matter how smart you were in 1980.
2) Liquid Networks - A study of why more ideas and evolutions come out of large networks, whether it is large metrocities or large coral reefs.
3) The Slow Hunch - Bright ideas are much less of "lightning striking" than a slow simmer over the years until puzzle pieces fall into place, i.e. several people's correct ideas need time to combine to make one bright idea.
4) Serendipity - Many times accidental discoveries complete hunches, at times through dreams. These become "eureka" moments that come when you least expecting them to. Also? Open source vs. patents.
5) Error - Some things are less inventions, than the persistent accumulations of error. The Audion, penicillin, the Daguerreotype, or the pacemakers - all invented from error.
6) Exaptation - Gutenberg's genius lay not in coming up with new technology, but from borrowing existing technology from another field and putting it to work on a different problem (from wine press to bible maker).
7) Platforms - Some creatures or people are platform creators. The beaver builds dams for protection and in the process creates a new ecosystem. Platforms are often stacked; paradigms are rarely overturn but built upon.

8) The Fourth Quadrant - This chapter is the whole reason Johnson wrote the book. I thought I was just reading a book about interesting points about the history of innovation. What was really happening, in hindsight, is Johnson was making an argument about how to solve society's biggest problems. Where have all the best ideas come from in the past 200 years? From individuals or from groups working together? Are they motivated by profit or for goodwill?

Because if our society has major problems that need majorly big ideas to solve them (it does) - research has shown that in the information age a majority of innovations has come from networks not motivated by profit. Academic or open source communities. HIs argument is not to abolish patents that discourage open sourcing - but to abolish the fallacy that without "trade secrets" innovation would grind to a halt.

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message 1: by Wendi (new)

Wendi Sounds very intriguing.

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