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
Sep 29, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: first-reads
Read in September, 2010

I won this book from Goodreads. This is a fascinating book I would recommend to anyone even remotely interested in creativity and the history of the ideas that changed our world and the way we interact with it. He tackles the similarities in how ideas form, from Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection to the internet and twitter. Johnson's writing is tight and engaging--his ideas scream for contemplation and incorporation into one's intellectual life, yet I found it difficult to pull myself away. Definitely a book I'll be re-reading--and don't even ask to borrow my copy.

As a scientists especially, I appreciated his treatment of the collaborative nature of ideas and innovations especially. May of the best, most innovative ideas in science come out of collaborations, not from the apocryphal lone scientist toiling away in a secluded lab. Certainly, a breakthrough can happen to someone working alone, but he makes a compelling argument that interaction with others, or at the very least broad exposure to ideas, fertilizes the mind, priming it for creativity. Johnson presents the best justification for conference attendance ever.

I only had a couple of criticisms that pulled this down from a five star to a four star. He mentions the importance of the commonplace book--essentially a diary for ideas--and then essentially advertises his own favorite version of a digital commonplace book (from DEVONthink) for the remainder of the chapter. While I'm sure the DEVONthink product is a good one, and I'm glad to know such products exist (since I'd never have thought to even look for one on my own) I'm sure there are other systems out there for taking notes and organizing ideas that would be equally good.

That minor quibble aside, I really enjoyed this book!
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