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Where do good ideas come from?

13 Dec 2010

Steven Johnson asks exactly that in his new book. The answer is perhaps not what many people might expect. The process of personal discovery is perhaps longer and slower than many people might expect.  Johnson talks about the importance of environment and uses the coffee house in seventeenth century Oxford to illustrate his point. Coffee houses brought people together and actually had them stimulated and sober (not always the case previously!) The creation of a place to socialize and share ideas changed how long it took for new ideas to develop. Johnson also looks at how some physics geeks who wanted to listen to Sputnik inadvertently created the basic thinking behind the now ubiquitous GPS system that sits on your phone or saves you from getting lost in the car.  His research does not point to ideas being created in some flash of inspiration but through a process of discussion, collaboration, exploration and realisation. He uses Darwin to illustrate this point very well.

So, take a look and think about where your good ideas come from?  Do you create alone? Or do you grow them with the support of confidantes who share your interest until they are ready to blossom?

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