The natural state of ideas is flow and spillover and connection.

Where Good Ideas Come From – The Natural History of Innovation

„The trick is to figure out ways to explore the edges of possibility that surround you. This can be as simple as changing the physical environment you work in, or cultivating a specific kind of social network, or maintaining certain habits in the way you seek and store information.“ (p 41)

„The question is how to push your brain towards those more creative networks. The answer, as it happens, is delightfully fractal: to make your mind more innovative, you have to place it inside environments that share that same network signature: networks of ideas or people that mimic the neural networks of a mind exploring the boundaries of the adjacent possible. Certain environments enhance the brain’s natural capacity to make new links of association.“ (p 47)

„And so, when we look back to the original innovation engine on earth, we find two essential properties. First, a capacity to make new connections with as many other elements as possible. And , second, a ‚randomizing‘ environment that encourages collision between all the elements in the system.“ (p 51)

„Think of the behaviour of molecules in each of these three conditions. In a gas, chaos, rules; new configurations are possible, but they are constantly being disrupted and torn apart by the volatile nature of the environment. In a solid, the opposite happens: the patterns have stability, but they are incapable of change. But a liquid network created a more promising environment for the system to explore the adjacent possible. New configurations can emerge through random connections formed between molecules, but the system isn’t so wildly unstable that it instantly destroys its new creations.“ (p. 52)

„A recent experiment led by the German neuroscientist Ullrich Wagner demonstrates the potential for dream states to trigger new conceptual insights. In Wagner#s experiment, test subjects were assigned a tedious mathematical task that involved the repetitive transformation of eight digits into a different number. With practise, the test subjects grew steadily more efficient at completing the task. But Wagner’s puzzle had a hidden pattern to it, a rule governed the numerical transformations. Once discovered, the pattern allowed the subjects to complete the test much faster, not unlike the surge of activity one gets at he end of a jigsaw puzzle when all the pieces suddenly fall into place. Wagner found that after an initial exposure to the numerical test, ‚sleeping on the problem‘ more than doubled the test subjects’ ability to discover the hidden rule. The mental recombinations of sleep helped them explore the full range of solutions, detecting patterns that they had failed to perceive in their initial training period. The work of dreams turns out to be a particular chaotic, yet productive, way of exploring the adjacent possible.“ (p 162)

„…because error is not simply a phase you have to suffer through on the way to genius. Error often creates a path that leads you out of your comfortable assumptions…. Being right keeps you in place. Being wrong forces you to explore.“ (p 137)

„An important part of Gutenberg’s genius, then, lay not in conceiving an entirely new technology from scratch, but instead from borrowing a mature technology from an entirely different field, and putting it to work to solve an unrelated problem…. His radical breakthrough relied, instead, on the ubiquity of the screw press in Rhineland winemaking culture, and on his ability to reach out beyond his specific field of expertise and concoct new uses for an older technology. He took a machine designed to get people drunk and turned it into an engine for mass communication.“ (p. 153)

„…innovation thrives in discarded spaces. Emergent platforms derive much of their creativity from the inventive and economical reuse of existing resources…“ (p 199)

„The natural state of ideas is flow and spillover and connection. It is society that keeps them in chains.“ (p 241)

„The patterns are simple, but followed together, they make for a whole that is wiser than the sum of its parts. Go for a walk; cultivate hunches, write everything down, but keep your folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffee-houses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow; recycle; reinvent.“ (p. 246)

Where Good Ideas Come From – The Natural History of Innovation. Steven Johnson, 2010, Riverhead Books, published by the Penguin Group.

We provide our insights through quotes directly taken from books, articles, videos, info graphs and other media. We do not add, comment or reflect on the topics highlighted or represent the media in its intentions or as a whole. We hope to inspire you to dig deeper, discover and fall in love with your own eureka moments.

Previous NanoInsights:

Seeing What Others Don’t by Gary Klein

"Having an insight is an act of creation or We are built to be surprised." „Our insights transform us in several ways. They change how we understand, act, see, feel, and desire. They change how we understand. They transform our thinking; our new story...

read more

The Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

"Forget innovation: Focus on being good." „Real experiments have risks, just like real life… Innovating comes at a price: it might be money, time, sanity, friends, or marriages, but there will definitely be one.“ (p 37) „Finding paths of innovation. While...

read more

The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly

"A good question is not concerned with a correct answer." „We need to believe in improbable things more often. Everything is in flux, and the new forms will be an uncomfortable mix of the old. With effort and imagination we can learn to discern what’s...

read more

Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux

"Innovation doesn’t happen centrally, according to plan, but at the edges, all the time." „No one can be made to evolve in consciousness, even with the best of intentions - a hard truth for coaches and consultants… What can be done is to create...

read more