Imagine this: somebody who is really smart sits down in a lab and thinks about a problem they have had for a while. They start tinkering with some metal, maybe run a little bit of electricity through a circuit, and BAM! Moments later the world has a new invention that solves all kinds of problems. The now-famous inventor picks up a few prizes (and some bags with dollar signs on them) for changing the world, moves into a nicer lab or workshop, and does it all over again, right?
This is exactly what I saw in the cartoons of my youth.
However, nothing could be further from reality. Thinking that there is a lone genius inventor or that innovation comes only from a profit motive does not work anymore.
Do pharma companies expect to hire a genius that will churn out innovative products by herself in a lab? That’s not what she wants to do, and that’s not what creates true innovation. If you want to harness innovation, you absolutely need to understand clusters, workgroups, and they way information moves.
Author Steven Johnson says, “If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.”
You can connect more with Steven Johnson’s ideas with his new book: Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
Or you can read a great conversation between Kevin Kelly and Steven Johnson at Wired.
- Kevin Kelly and Steve Johnson on Where Ideas Come From (wired.com)
- Steven Johnson Answers Your Innovation Questions (freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Where Good Ideas Come From (neilperkin.typepad.com)