Steven Johnson has studied good ideas and the environments that spawn them. He’s concluded that rarely do good ideas happen in a “Eureka!” moment. Rather, they come Ideas come from networks, swarms or waves created in a fertile environment or ecosystem. His latest book, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, identifies seven scenarios to trigger “some provocative collisions between existing ideas.” They are: 1) The Adjacent Possible 2) Liquid Networks 3) The Slow Hunch 4) Serendipity 5) Error 6) Exaptation and 7) Platforms.
We examined several examples of innovation and asked Steven to identify which of the seven scenarios each innovation utilized. Most interesting of the examples was the 9/11 tragedy, where the FBI had two classic “hunches” that, if combined, may have resulted in a better—at least different—outcome on that day. One agent had a hunch written down in the Phoenix memo. Another agent in another state had a hunch about the 20th hijacker. If these two hunches were combined, it may have been probable cause to search the 20th hijacker’s laptop to find details about the 9/11 plot.
Listen to the entire interview below: