Flipped Lecture Two: Where Good Ideas Come From

15 Oct

‘What are the spaces that have historically lead to unusual rates of

creativity and innovation?’


In this flipped lecture, Steven Johnson provides his audience with the compelling and intriguing story of how people are able to generate the ideas that can push our careers, our lives, our society, and our culture forward.

I found this lecture to be extremely interesting, especially when he uses ‘real life’ examples to further support his contention, such as

I also very much enjoyed the overall stylistic presentation of the lecture and found that the use of imagery assist me in understanding the information and also kept me interested. Through this, I decided to watch a TED lecture of Steve Johnson, where he further explains his ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ approach. This video can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0af00UcTO-c 

Key insights gained from watching Johnson’s presentation:

  • Looks at this problem from an environmental perspective: what are the spaces that have historically lead to unusual rates of creativity and innovation?
  • People often credit their ideas to individual “Eureka!” moments.
  • Flash, Stroke, Epiphany, Eureka, Lightbulb: All moments of inspiration which share a basic assumption that an idea is a single thing
  • Ideas need time to incubate: The ‘slow hunch’
  • With today’s tools and environment, radical innovation is extraordinarily accessible to those who know how to cultivate it.
  • An idea is a network: Ideas are part of larger networks of connections, not the singular trajectory of epiphany.  Though it may seem like we’re struck with that lightning bolt of inspiration—that storm had been brewing the whole time.
  • The Liquid Network: where you have lots of ideas, lots of eyes, different backgrounds, different interests jostling with each other bouncing off each other – that environment is in fact the environment that leads to innovation.

Who is Steve Johnson?

Steven Berlin Johnson  is an American popular science author and media theorist. Johnson is the author of eight books on the intersection of science, technology and personal experience. He has also co-created three influential web sites: the pioneering online magazine FEED, the Webby-Award-winning community site,Plastic.com,  and most recently outside.in. Johnson is also a contributing editor to Wired and writes regularly for The New york Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.

His recent book, Where Good Ideas Come From, puts forth the notion that innovative thinking is a slow and gradual process based on the concept of the “slow hunch” rather than an instant moment of inspiration, or a ‘eureka’ moment. This book adduces seven conditions that enable discoveries and inventions, which include:

1) The adjacent possible: The inventor must use the components that exist in his environment. 

2) Liquid networks: Large cities, and now the Internet, make it possible for loose, informal networks to form, and these enable discoveries.

3) The slow hunch: It can take years for a hunch to blossom into a full-blown invention.

4) Serendipity: The occurrence and development of events by chance.

5) Error: This can also be a creative force. 

6) Exaptation: An example can include: ‘Birds developed feathers to keep warm and regulate their body temperature and later used them for flight.’ 

7) Platforms: He gives the example of the development of  a precursor of GPS, by the Applied Physics Lab in his lecture. 


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