Where Good Ideas Come from

Topics: Innovation, Idea, Creativity Pages: 14 (5108 words) Published: August 12, 2013

Where Good Ideas Come From
Book Review

Submitted to: Prof. Malathi Sriram

Submitted by: Manish Kumar Sharma (11029) Priyanka Narsinghani (11042)

1. Introduction 2. Reef, city, web 3. The adjacent possible 4. The liquid Network 5. The slow hunch 6. Serendipity 7. Error 8. Exaptation 9. Platform 10.The fourth Quadrant 11.Conclusion 12.Review by Manish Kumar Sharma 13.Review by Priyanka Narsinghani


Steven Johnson’s book, Where Good Ideas Come From: the Natural History of Innovation, is the book that we went through for our knowledge seminar course. Lots of books have been written about innovation – what good ideas are, how we measure and implement it. The subject of innovation is quite popular and redundant, but this book is quite good at giving examples of how to create environments that can encourage good ideas. The author writes this book to help people understand the concept of how ideas occur. He has used a lot of example to explain all the concepts. He has given the examples of past innovations to facilitate future innovations. He has clearly helped organizations to be more creative and innovative. He has given ways of making people think more creatively and explore new possibilities. People can get a lot of insights about which kind of environment is required for creativity. People in business or education can find it a worthwhile book. It talks about the institutional structures that facilitate good ideas – how to get lots of people thinking about cutting edge problems, how to put people together in a space where different skill sets and influences can come together, how to make the right kinds of materials available but not forcing a conclusion. Normally books about innovation revolve around the idea that a small number of smart individuals have had Eureka moments, leading to extraordinary breakthroughs that changed the course of civilization. But Johnson contradicts this view, which we liked: “if you want to create a space for innovation, you won’t get far by cloistering yourself away from the world and waiting for inspiration to hit you. Chances favours the connected mind.” With this he explains the importance of being connected and understanding its correlation with other hunches. It also tries to throw light on the aspect that there are always possibilities for an adjacent improvement and improvisation of present innovative idea. Thus we cannot hold on our ideas isolated from the environment and not letting it combine with other ideas if we really want to contribute to the society. Now we will brief the ideas and examples used by the author in the book chapter wise.

Darwin’s paradox: During his voyage on the Beagle, Darwin described tropical coral reefs as oases in the desert of the ocean. He reflected on the paradox that tropical coral reefs, which are among the richest and most diverse ecosystems on earth, flourish surrounded by tropical ocean waters that provide hardly any nutrients. Coral reefs cover less than 0.1% of the surface of the world’s ocean, yet they support over one-quarter of all marine species. Here the author wants to highlight the fact that ideas do not come suddenly, it was only days later that Darwin pulls out his journal and reflects on that mesmerizing clash between surf and coral. The super linear city: In this section the author gives example of Swiss scientist Max Kleiber, who proposed that as the life gets bigger, it slows down. Taking the square root of 1,000, which is (approximately) 31, and then take the square root of 31, which is (again, approximately) 5.5. This means that a cow, which is roughly a thousand times heavier than a woodchuck, will, on average, live 5.5 times longer, and have a heart rate that is 5.5 times slower than the woodchuck’s. Years later, theoretical physicist Geoffrey West investigated whether Kleiber’s law holds well even when applied to cities and innovation...
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