Steven Johnson has written many books covering the intersection of science, technology and personal experience. In his latest work, Where Good Ideas Come From, he investigates the factors that often create groundbreaking innovation. And along the way he also debunks the myth of the Eureka moment.
In Johnson’s view it is the combination of slow hunches that are incubated over time, along with the force multiplier of connecting to other people’s slow hunches, that leads to breakthrough innovation. This is a far cry from the romanticized flash of brilliance, or earth shattering epiphany, that we often equate with significant progress.
Funny enough, I had my own meta breakthrough that proved Johnson’s theory. Just today I told people I had an epiphany about how the intersection of content marketing and social media could transform typical B2B approaches to winning new customers. But as I reflected while watching the videos I realized that I had been thinking through these ideas for more than a year. And it was only through the presentations and discussions at a conference last week that my “epiphany” was crystallized. Although I had labeled it an Eureka moment, that was totally false – this was a slow hunch combined with a bunch of idea-riffing with others.
The most exhilarating thing about Johnson’s take is the great potential of the internet and social media to better cultivate slow hunches and turbo charge connectedness. As TED’s curator Chris Anderson recently covered in his talk about Crowd Accelerated Innovation, the connectivity of the internet is creating a faster cycle of one-upmanship than society has ever seen. So although the internet is providing more distraction than ever before, it is also dramatically speeding the rate of innovation. I’ll take that combo over boredom and inertia any day.
So now you have to check out these two introductory videos for the book. The first is a 4 minute piece in the style of the RSA Animate series, where time lapse video records an animator illustrating along with Johnson. The second is a standard 18 minute TED talk, and it’s full of colorful stories to cement this view of ideation (he even describes coffeehouses as the places where “ideas have sex”). In both, Johnson ends his talk with a statement that made me feel lucky to be alive at this exciting time: “Chance favors the connected mind”.
4 Minute Intro
18 Minute TED Talk