Where Good Ideas Come From


The Natural History of Innovation

Self-explanatory title. Examines the patterns behind insightful discoveries using the natural world as reference.


30 Second Summary


Much in the same way that coral reefs and rain-forests are ecosystems which promote a large number of diverse species, creative environments can be deliberately established to foster the generation, diffusion, and adoption of ideas. This book helps you to understand what the key characteristics of those creative environments are. Focus on creating these environments and the ideas will come.


Key Concepts in the Book


New ideas come from many places. Johnson argues that these places are fairly predictable.

One such place is error. Making a mistake is a fantastic and rather common way to stumble upon new ideas or to change your perspective. Don’t be afraid of error.

Re-purposing ideas from one context to another – something called exaptation – is yet another source of innovative ideas. Expose yourself to a wide range of ideas by mixing in a variety of networks.

New ideas are rarely lightning bolts – they usually “fade into focus.” Nurture your hunches. Write them down. Be patient.

Ideas are networks. They are connections. Allow your ideas to connect with other ideas. Foster the diffusion of ideas. Don’t force ideas to compete with one another.

Evolution and adaptation are driven forward through reproduction. Let your ideas evolve. Prototype. Test. Iterate.


Who Should Read This Book and Why


Managers seeking more creativity from their teams.

You will become more knowledgeable about WHAT makes an environment foster creativity. Johnson doesn’t provide a ton of practical guidance that you can immediately take into your office, so it will be on you to determine HOW to implement this knowledge.


The posts below walk through the book’s key concepts