Where Good Ideas Come From (Intro) (2 of 10)

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In spite of a heavy travel schedule this spring, I am managing to really get into Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson. I started the book sometime ago, but am now making a dedicated effort to finishing it.

In the Introduction, the author gives fascinating anecdotes of how ideas tend to percolate before coming to fruition…sometimes for decades at a time. He also highlights the premise of his book: that ideas benefit from being able to connect with other people’s ideas, far more so than when these new ideas are “protected.” Two quotes especially resonated with me:

“A city that was ten times larger than its neighbor wasn’t ten times more innovative; it was seventeen times more innovative. A metropolis fifty times bigger than a town was 130 times more innovative.” (Location 140)

“West’s power laws suggested something far more provocative: that despite all the noise and crowding and distraction, the average resident of a metropolis with a population of five million people was almost three times more creative than the average resident of a town of a hundred thousand.” (Location 145)
I grew up in a rather small, isolated town and remember the frustration and hopelessness I would sometimes feel when I would hear about an incredible new science discovery or see a scene in a movie that looked nothing like the world I inhabited. I would hear the stories of how new, young musicians would meet each other by happenstance “downtown” in a city and suddenly a new genre of music would be created. I tried to picture these amazing, life-changing events happening in my own town and knew intuitively that they likely would not. Moving to a city in my mid-20s provided almost endless possibilities for any of my interests. Though I didn’t know a soul, I felt very much at home.
This book is also reminding me that I need to read Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier by Edward L. Glaeser. Yet another for the list!

8 responses to “Where Good Ideas Come From (Intro) (2 of 10)

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