27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
A very skinny latte,
This review is from: Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (Hardcover)I enjoyed Steven Johnson's "Ghost Map", but have found his other books curiously unsatisfying, rather like having a skinny latte for lunch and realising a few hours later that something more substantial was needed. This latest one I found particularly frothy.
The problem is that I think I know something about the area. My professional career has been spent in the area of scientific discovery, invention and market innovation, I think the three are highly distinct, and saw little benefit in Johnson's amalgamation into an all-embracing category of "good ideas". The processes for discovery, invention, and the reduction to practice which constitutes innovation are distinctly different. The great chemical technolgies of the 20th century (nitrogen fixation, oil refining, dyestuffs, for example) all owe their existence to human efforts and organisations outside Johnson's model. And what does he make of crop rotation, possibly the most important agricultural technology of all?
Of course there are good bits, and it was very pleasing to see Stuart Kaufmann's notion of "the adjacent possible" given some time. This idea is the basis not just of evolution and invention, but also is the basis of how politics and politicians work, at least in a democracy.
What I missed was any sense of how institutions shape the posibility of new ideas, especially the growth of universities, think tanks and research laboratories. Of course Google and Apple featured, but they would, wouldn't they?