Where Good Ideas Come From
by Steven Johnson
Publisher: Riverhead Books, 2010
Reviewed by: Julie Garland McLellan*
Where do good ideas come from? How can a board create the right environment for innovation to flourish?
These are difficult questions and this book does not claim to provide an easy solution. What it does is trace some of the elemental developments that have fostered innovative thinking and link them to ideas from neuroscience, natural environment and social networking arenas in a way that allows the reader to gain an immersive experience of innovation.
Like a hippopotamus, innovative environments are hard to describe but you know them when you see them. This book will heighten the readers' senses so that even the shadowy possibility of ideas will start to gain clarity just as, for the trained hunter, a submerged hippo is easily inferred from environmental clues.
The best aspect of the book is its comfortable tone. Each chapter is as easily readable as a Mills and Boon romance and yet conveys a richness of detail that allows the reader to feel the environments evoked by the text. The reader is transported from the heady rush of the creation of YouTube to the desperation of third world doctors when donated high tech equipment fails to work while all the time, as scenarios are engaging the mind on one level the evidence of environmental factors conducive to creativity is building on another.
This is not necessarily a book to read fast. It is more of a 'sit down and savour slowly' type of experience. Highly rewarding and highly recommended.
* Julie Garland McLellan is a professional non-executive director, board and governance consultant and mentor. She is the author of "Presenting to Boards", Dilemmas, Dilemmas: Practical Case Studies for Company Directors, "The Director's Dilemma", "All Above Board: Great Governance for the Government Sector" and numerous articles on corporate strategy and governance.