Johnson (Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, 2010, etc.) offers an invaluable compendium of the best available thinking on innovation.
“The history of human progress, worldwide, is the history of new ideas put to wonderful new use,” writes the author. In recent years, scholars and innovators have studied the mystery of innovation, including the more than a dozen gurus from diverse fields represented here. In essays, studies and interviews, the contributors describe the factors and conditions that often spark creativity. Stressing innovation’s place at the heart of entrepreneurship, Peter Drucker reflects on innovation opportunities. Within companies they occur because of unexpected occurrences, incongruities, process needs or market changes; outside companies, they arise through demographic changes, changes in perception and new knowledge. “Above all, innovation is work—rather than genius,” he writes. Richard Florida offers a concise summary of his creative-class thesis, arguing for the mix of lifestyle, diversity and other factors that shape a creative environment. Other contributors address such topics as the variables affecting success in innovation, how business imperatives can kill creativity, the role of consumers and the growth of social innovations from neighborhood watch groups to Wikipedia. Musician-producer Brian Eno, who notes that new technologies often precede new realizations of their use, says he often fiddles around with newly invented tools. He also travels to escape normal everyday life. Tom Kelley, general manager of design firm IDEO, stresses the importance of cross-pollination across fields and the strategic role space can play in a team’s creativity.
With an introduction by Johnson on the critical importance of innovation for America’s economic future, this is a welcome tool kit for anyone looking to cook up new ideas.