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Ladder Award: Steven Johnson for his useful insights into “Where good ideas come from”

Steven Johnson is awarded a Ladder for insights developed from his research into “Where Good Ideas Come From.”

The Award is for dispelling the myth that really good ideas come as flashes, light bulbs or eureka moments from individuals with gifted minds and for demonstrating that protecting ideas by closing doors and building walls does not lead to great ideas and innovation.

Johnson argues that great ideas come not from the protected mind, but the “connected mind.”

He says that ideas can be seen as networks – networks both in minds where neurons combine in configurations not already there, and networks between minds.

He depicts “a network of minds” in which innovation occurs and prospers where ideas connect and re-combine.

Johnson shows that innovative ideas are not really new; rather they are cobbled together from stuff already laying around, from other ideas, from conversations – such as in coffee shops. He draws attention to the need for spaces where people of diverse backgrounds can connect.

Johnson shows how great ideas tend to need “long incubation periods” to come to fruition, normally beginning as a small hunch.

Because the world needs good ideas now, Johnson argues we need environments conducive to the connecting of a given hunch with other hunches.

Johnson’s findings are based on research, historical and current. His findings show people are unreliable about self-reporting where they have good ideas.

For instance he refers to Charles Darwin’s autobiography where Darwin describes coming up with the idea of natural selection as a eureka moment when reading Malthus on population in October 1838. However, when a researcher studied Darwin’s notebooks it was clear he had the theory well before doing this – he just hadn’t articulated it clearly as an idea.

Johnson also refers to research where scientists were filmed going about their work and video tape recordings shows these scientists did not come up with the good ideas alone in the lab, but at conference tables where they shared latest data, findings and problems.

He says, “Chance favours the connected mind.”

We at Village-Connection have to agree!

Read: Wall Street Journal essay – The Genius of the Tinkerer – The secret to innovation is combining odds and ends

See: TED video Steven Johnson: Where good ideas come from

Do you have any thoughts, or know of any examples, to do with the origin of good ideas? Please send your comments (below) or propose an Award yourself (a Ladder to help get us out of a hole or a Shovel for those who are digging us deeper).

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