Where good ideas come from

Posted by on Jul 26, 2011
Where good ideas come from

Steven Johnson is a popular science writer.  For five years, he studied the history of innovation.  He wondered whether there were recurring patterns of creativity that could be applied to our lives and our organizations.  Johnson published his findings in a book,Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation.  It was named one of the best books of 2010 by The Economist. Johnson believes we need to change our central metaphor of how ideas are born.  Exhibit A: the individual Eureka! moment.  There is a popular perception that most breakthroughs occur with a brilliant individual alone in his/her lab or office.  Instead, history shows that most breakthroughs occur when people come together in a common space and share ideas.

Johnson argues that we need systems and spaces where one person’s hunch can collide with another person’s hunch –– and turn into something bigger.  That is the environment where breakthroughs take place.

And the key to that, Johnson maintains, is connectivity.

As someone who works at HY Connect, I see that in action every day.  When people from different disciplines come together –– from PR, Media, Digital, Design and more –– we take a campaign idea and make it better.  The collision of ideas creates better thinking and a stronger integrated campaign.  It’s the kind of thinking you won’t find at a stand-alone PR, digital or media firm.

All right.  Obviously, I have a vested interest in saying that connections work better than silos.  But as Johnson points out, over the last 600 years, connectivity has been the primary engine of creativity and innovation.  (And who’s going to argue with 600 years of history?)

I’ll leave you with Johnson’s concluding thought: “Chance favors the connected mind.”  It’s great advice.  So, get connected: join a book club.  Contribute to an online business forum.  Or, add to the dialogue on one of these video links.

Check out this 4-minute video.  Come for the ideas, stay for the animation.  This is way better than any PowerPoint presentation.

If you have 18 minutes, this is a great presentation.  It starts with a wonderful equation of how coffee houses helped create the Age of Enlightenment.  {Less alcohol + More caffeine} = Better thinking.