The Social Incubation of Ideas

Johnnie Moore shares this summary of Steven Johnson’s TED talk  in which Johnson explores where and when ideas happen:

He focuses on two ways innovation successes are misreported and misunderstood.

First, people simplify their ideas as solitary, Eureka moments, whereas ideas often happen in social environments.

They also tend to abbreviate their stories of how ideas happened, whereas in fact lots of ideas have very long incubation periods (“the slow hunch”).

Darwin, for example, presented his theory of natural selection as one of these sudden insights, whereas researchers show he had the idea for months before his reported epiphany. He also explains how those dabbling on a side project to measure satellite trajectories evolves into what is now GPS. It’s a long term, non-linear story.

He also argues that these misconceptions partly justify ideas of intellectual property whereas perhaps we should be more interested in connecting ideas than protecting them.