"Where good ideas come from"


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My own notes on Steven Johnson's excellent book

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"Where good ideas come from"

  1. 1. One lovely consequence of Kleibers law is thatthe number of heartbeats per lifetime tends to be stable from species to species http://www.flickr.com/photos/archetypefotografie/3632454965/lightbox/
  2. 2. “Great cities are not like town only larger”Jane Jacobs.The average resident of a metropolis with a population of five million is almost three times more creative than the average resident of a small town http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikebehnken/5102846536/
  3. 3. Natures innovations rely on spare parts. Evolutionadvances by taking available resources and cobbling themtogether to create new uses. Our bodies are also works of bricolage, old parts strung together to form something radically new. http://www.flickr.com/photos/douga/225131469/
  4. 4. Stuart Kauffman has a suggestive name for first-order combinations: “the adjacent possible”. The strange andbeautiful truth is that its boundaries grow as you explore those boundaries. Each new combination ushers new combinations into the adjacent possible. http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevenlaw/2941995444/
  5. 5. The trick is to figure out ways toexplore the edges of possibility that surround you.
  6. 6. Innovative environments are better at helping their inhabitants explore the adjacent possible, because they expose a wide and diverse sample of spare parts (mechanical or conceptual) and theyencourage novel ways of recombining them.
  7. 7. A good idea is a network. A specific constellation of neurons (thousands of them) fire in sync with eachother and an idea pops into consciousness. A new ideais a network of cells exploring the adjacent possible of connections that they can make in your mind. http://www.flickr.com/photos/28634332@N05/4128229979/
  8. 8. An idea is not a single thing. It is more like a swarm. http://www.flickr.com/photos/onkel_wart/4256435917
  9. 9. “Primordial soup”: an environment where novel combinations could occur thanks to: a capacity to make new connections with as many other elements as possible(Carbon); and a randomising environment that encourages collisions between all the elements in the system (H20). http://www.flickr.com/photos/dexxus/5491134733/
  10. 10. Interconnections nurture great ideas, because most great ideas come into the world half-baked, more hunch thanrevelation. Most great ideas have the seeds of something profound, but they lack a key element that can turn the hunch into something truly powerful. http://www.flickr.com/photos/ecstaticist/3503888462
  11. 11. Most hunches that turn into innovations unfold over longtime frames. Because they need so much time to develop,they are fragile creatures, easily lost to the more pressing needs of day-to-day issues http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickwheeleroz/2475011402
  12. 12. Part of the secret of hunch cultivation is simple: write everything down
  13. 13. Reading remains an unsurpassed vehicle for thetransmission of interesting new ideas and perspectives. http://www.flickr.com/photos/nickwheeleroz/2475011402
  14. 14. If Google can give its engineers oneday a week to work on anything they want, surely other organisations can figure out a way to give theiremployees dedicated time to immerse themselves in a network of ideas Marissa Mayer at Stanford University: Googles Innovation Time Off http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soYKFWqVVzg
  15. 15. The serendipity of the Web suggest a directive: look everything up!
  16. 16. http://www.devon-technologies.com/products/devonthink/
  17. 17. http://about.digg.com/
  18. 18. http://del.icio.us/
  19. 19. http://www.evernote.com/
  20. 20. The secret to organisational inspiration is to buildinformation networks that allow hunches to persist and disperse and recombine http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulobrandao/2788050844/
  21. 21. A paradoxical truth about innovation: good ideas are more likely to emerge in environments that contain a certain amount of noise and error http://www.flickr.com/photos/pyth0ns/4667845646/
  22. 22. No parents want genetic mutations in their child. But as species, we have been dependent on mutation http://www.uliwestphal.110mb.com/mutatoes.html
  23. 23. The mutation rate in human germ cells is roughly one inthirty million base pairs, which means each time parents pass their DNA on to a child, that genetic inheritance comes with roughly 150 mutations. http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/2422430207
  24. 24. Big organisations like to follow perfectionist regimes like Six Sigma and Total Quality Management... But leaving some room forgenerative error is important, too. Innovative environments thrive on useful mistakes
  25. 25. Exaptation: an organism develops a trait optimised for aspecific use, but then the trait gets hijacked for a completelydifferent function. Feathers adapted for warmth, exapted for flight. http://www.flickr.com/photos/ac_theart/4834301008
  26. 26. In the early 1800s, a weaver named Joseph-Marie Jacquard developed the first punch cards to weave complex solk patterns with mechanical looms. Several decades later, Charles Babbage borrowed Jacquardsinvention to program the Analytical Engine. Punch cards would remain crucial to programmable computers until the 1970s. http://www.flickr.com/photos/ian-s/2152798588/
  27. 27. “All decisive events in the history of scientific thoughtcan be described in terms of mental cross-fertilisation between different disciplines” Arthur Koestler
  28. 28. “The larger the town, the morelikely it is to contain in meaningful numbers and unity, drug addicts, radicals, intellectuals, swingers,health-food faddists, or whatever; and the more likely they are to influence (as well as offend) the conventional center of society” Claude Fischer http://www.flickr.com/photos/bdebaca/458957022
  29. 29. “In groups united by shared values and long-term familiarity, conformityand convention tend to dampen any potential creative sparks. But peoplewho build bridges outside their islands, are able to borrow or co-opt newideas from external environments and put them to use in a new context” Martin Ruef http://www.flickr.com/photos/pcharlon/4241943716/
  30. 30. A new technology developed in one idea-space can migrate to anotheridea-space through long-distance connections; in that new environment, the technology may turn out to have unanticipated properties or may trigger a connection that leads to a new breakthrough http://www.flickr.com/photos/raneko/3198405581
  31. 31. Platform building is, by definition, a kind of exercise in emergent behaviour” http://www.flickr.com/photos/pcharlon/4241943716/
  32. 32. The Origins of GPShttp://www.gpsworld.com/gnss-system/gps-modernization/the-origins-gps-part-1-9890?page_id=2
  33. 33. Genres are the platforms and paradigms of the creative world. They arealmost never willed into existence by a single pioneering work. Genres are built on top of moew stable conventions and technologies. http://www.flickr.com/photos/maistora/3208077240
  34. 34. The most fascinating thing about Twitter is how much has been built on top of its platform. When it first emerged, Twitter was widely derided as a frivolous distraction that was mostly good for telling your friends what you had for breakfast, Now it being used to organise and share news, route aroundcensorship, provide customer support, share news items and a thousand of otherapplications that did not occur to the founders when they dreamed up the service. http://www.whatisfailwhale.info/
  35. 35. “Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings.New ideas must use old buildings” Jane Jacobs
  36. 36. http://www.calera.com/
  37. 37. http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/wealth_of_networks/Main_Page
  38. 38. The wetland created by the beaver, like thetrhiving platform created by the Twitter founders, invites variation because it is an open platformwhere resources are shared as much as they are protected
  39. 39. Errors and myths in the book● “Alexander Fleming famously discovered the medical virtues of penicilin when the mold accidentally infiltrated a culture of Staphylococcus he had lefft by an open window...” (134)● “Gutenbergs printing press... the Chinese failed to adapt the technology for the mass production of texts, in large part because they imprinted the letterforms on the page by hand rubbing...” (153)● “When Brin and Page decided to use links between Web pages as digital votes endorsing the content of those pages, they were exapting Berners-Lees original design” (158)● “The oral contraceptive... most of critical research that led to its development happened in the intellectual commons of university labs at Harvard” (234)