Leah Levy'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
Aug 06, 2011

it was amazing
Read from July 27 to August 02, 2011

I loved this book (though I'll admit I'm somewhat of a sucker for the well-written, easily accessible non-fiction book about contemporary ideas). Each chapter raises another interesting point and provides plenty of material to mull over. I especially enjoyed the idea of the adjacent possible, both as it applies to my own creative work and as it applies to ideas in a society as a whole. The theses posited here seem especially relevant in the current information environment, for which we require new conceptual frameworks. As a former cognition and perception geek, I found the invocation of neural webs especially compelling. I likewise enjoyed the dialogue Johnson engaged in with other authors in this realm like Malcolm Gladwell, whose ideas about hunches in "Blink" relate to the material in this book. I also think he does a good job in mixing up the narrative approaches to keep the reader interested, something he reflects upon in the latter chapters.

The conclusion could have been chopped in half. There were many profound lines I would have been happy to savor as my last bite.

Good books to read in conjunction with this one are the previously mentioned "Blink," by Malcolm Gladwell, and "Cognitive Surplus," by Clay Shirkey, which explores the exchange of ideas and the creation both of media and social movements via the web. I would also be interested in reading the response of other authors to this book, as Steven Johnson, like Clay Shirkey, is clearly idealistic about and energized by the possibility of the web. I would like to see more tempered or counter points of view.

Addendum: This book seems especially relevant right now with all the media coverage about US patent law stifling innovation:


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