Steven Johnson: Where good ideas come from

Speaker: Steven Johnson

Length: 18:17

Rating 2 / 5

Summary

Steven discusses how ideas are formed. He argues against “lone scientists”, and eureka moments where a single person sitting along is the whole source of an idea. Instead he favours the coffee houses and team meeting environments where a number of different people can discuss and improve each other’s ideas. In this way, innovation is more organic, happening over a long time period.

He goes into detail about the discovery of GPS from a few curious researchers listening to sputnik, then one of them using Doppler to work out speed, then someone using the signal to work out its location, then their boss asking them to ‘reverse’ their calculations and develop a system to find ground locations from a satellite.

Critique

Chaos is the mother of invention! I like that idea, and the arguments for open source ideas instead of intellectual property protection.

It was an interesting summary of the history of good ideas. However, I think where this talk fell short is discussing how we can apply this in the modern environment. I’m particularly curious how the internet fits in – is this modern ultra-chaotic information sharing network more conducive to innovation? Or are we overloading ourselves and getting too much stimulus?

So I enjoyed the talk greatly. In rating I may be harsh because it stops short of passing on any ideas of its own. Still recommended though.

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