Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

Book Review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author: 

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson

Synopsis of Content:

This book is about ideas. It is about where they come from, how they develop and what conditions best promote their development.

The author examines networks and how they function in nature, in human society and on the internet. Johnson first examines selected individual idea developments from history beginning with Charles Darwin and how he developed his ideas about evolution.

From these individual examples he develops a theory about how people actually develop ideas – especially complex ideas that are world changing. He identifies the environments that most effectively promote idea development: what he calls liquid networks. In nature he cites coral reefs as a prime example of this. He describes how the symbiotic and collaborative processes on a coral reef allow a rich growth of life to come from a nutrient poor environment.

He then extrapolates this process to apply to cities and the internet. He examines the development of inventions and technological advances and looks at the environments and processes that are most likely to promote such advances.

Johnson challenges the myth that most great advancements are the product of one genius working alone. Though he concedes that some progress does come from the lone individual he argues this is the exception to the rule. Most ideas, and most progress, he argues, come from the interaction of various individuals sharing ideas and building on past ideas to develop new ones.

He cites various examples of this including how most modern technologies were developed by numerous people sharing information and building on past ideas.

Environmentally he argues that the place where ideas are most often nurtured are those rich in high densities of people (or animals) working together such as cities or coral reefs.

Johnson examines many of the technological and conceptual advances of the past 400 years and finds that most of them come from some form of collaboration. He says that today most ideas come from research universities and or from research labs run by large corporations where this collaborative function is at its best.

Johnson discusses how these collaborative processes work. He tells us about the adjacent possible principles and that new ideas come from examining the edges of possibility around you. The most fertile idea generation comes from being exposed to multiple disciplines and ideas.

Johnson also writes about the “slow hunch”. He gives several examples (including Darwin) of people who had a hunch which over a long period of time grew and developed with added information and thinking. Most ideas do not come from an instant inspiration of genius but instead from a gradual process where a hunch may linger in the mind for years or even decades and then exposure to new ideas and relationships between ideas give birth to the concept that started with the slow hunch.

What I found useful about this book:

This book is an excellent study on how ideas are nurtured and developed. I learned a lot about how important it is to escape your silo or field of work and collaborate with others in various fields of work and thought to enrich your own thinking.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

This book is not an easy read. It forces you to think in new ways about how ideas are formed. It looks in great detail about how ideas have been formed in science and other areas. At times the detail is a bit daunting but is worth it because it paints a clear picture of how ideas are best developed in a way that a shorter examination of the process would fail to reveal in sufficient detail.

Notes on Author:

Steven Johnson is a bestselling author and founder of a number of websites.

Other Books by This Author:

The Invention of Air

The Ghost Map

Emergence

Interface Culture

Related Website:

http://www.stevenberlinjohnson.com/

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. Your best ideas will develop from a collaborative process interacting with numerous other people and their ideas. Creating and working in an environment rich in this kind of interaction with the largest number of possible influences generate the most ideas and lead to the most transformative changes. There is great value to visiting coffee houses and other places where this collaboration and discussion across disciplines can nurture your ideas.
  1. Write everything down and review those notes from time to time much as Darwin did. This allows you mind to expand on ideas and builds on the slow hunch.
  1. Read and learn from various disciplines outside your own. This will enable you to expand your thinking to levels you could not reach on your own.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: Where Good Ideas Come From – The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson

Copyright holder: 2010 by Steven Johnson

Publisher: Riverhead Books, NY

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com

Beyond Words by Carl Safina

(What Animals Think and Feel)

livescience.com

livescience.com

Once in a while I just have to write about an important book that does not easily fall into the categories I usually write on here. This is one such book. It will move you, inform you and delight you. It is important, now and then, to read a book like this that tells us something important about our world.

Safina examines what we know, what we think we know and what we do not know about how animals think and feel. He traces our misguided ideas from the past including the beliefs that allowed the barbaric practice of vivisection to the newest discoveries of the present.

As a scientist Safina has struggled with what science is able to prove to the satisfaction of many scientists and what he finds undeniable if we will observe and interact with animals. The more closely we examine animal behavior the more undeniable it becomes that they do think and feel. One an even see behaviors in animals that are human like. Here he must struggle with those who warn against anthropomorphizing animals. He does not favor doing this and maintains they are their own species and they think and feel their own way, though there are often surprising similarities to humans.

He closely examines work being done with wild elephants in wildlife refuges in Africa, wolves in Yellowstone Park and finally Orca whales (which are actually dolphins) in Puget Sound. We see how all these highly social animals behave, interact and obviously feel. He brings us the great joy in seeing these animals express happiness, sadness, grief, and other powerful emotions as well as how immensely smart they can be. However he also brings us the deep sadness in seeing how we are killing these animals at such a rate that they face almost certain extinction.

This book is highly informative and moving. It will make you smile and it will make you cry. It is an outstanding book.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com

The Simplicity Cycle

Making things simpler and better

Book of the Month for June 2016

Title and Author:  

The Simplicity Cycle – A Field Guide to Making Things Better Without Making Them Worse by Dan Ward

Synopsis of Content: 

Greater complexity does not necessarily make things better. This is the message of Dan Ward’s book. This is a book about design in its broadest sense. It is about designing gadgets, machines, systems, procedures and even books. It is about elegant design. Getting the most from the least.

Ward argues that there is an optimum balance between complexity and what he calls “goodness” which is an inclusive word meaning convenience, ease of use, elegant design, effectiveness and any number of other adjectives we would use to describe a good design. In its simplest form our effort to attain more goodness in something usually brings about more complexity. We reach a point however, often fairly quickly, when the added complexity reduces the overall goodness of what we are trying to improve. …

Read the rest here. 

Get the book here:

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com

Everything Can Be Improved

great_idea2How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. — Anne Frank

It has long been my byword: Everything Can Be Improved. It is at the bottom of my professional email and is now at the bottom of all of my emails.

I believe it is true. I also believe it is the basis for hope. It is easy to get discouraged by all the bad news in the world. There are always a host of problems, many of which seem insurmountable, to bring gloom to our day.

The Choice

One can sink into despair at the problems that face us, both the personal problems and the larger social problems. Despair however has never fixed anything, reversed anything, or improved anything. It has never solved problems. Only hope can lead to the solution of problems. Hope is the product of the belief that everything can be improved.

This is a choice we all have. We can founder on our problems or we can accept the fact that problems can be solved and things can be improved. I choose to have hope. I choose to believe that everything can be improved.

quote-everything-can-be-improved-clarence-w-barron-64-73-98Clarence W. Barron

I “invented” this quip, Everything Can Be Improved, many years ago. I did so because it seemed to capture in a few words the core of my philosophy. It turns out that someone else used the same slogan: Clarence W. Barron. I have only just learned of this through my research. (Photo: http://www.azquotes.com/quote/647398)

Clarence W. Barron was the president of the Dow Jones & Company. He managed the Wall Street Journal. He was born on July 2, 1855 in Boston, Massachusetts and died October 2, 1928.

Barron was a formidable man. He was known as a powerhouse. He had great energy and sought to improve many things. He understood the power of this phrase, this idea. He believed it just as I do. In addition to buying the Dow Jones Company he founded various journals including Barron’s Financial Weekly. He is credited with founding the modern concept of investigative financial journalism.

Certainly it was Barron’s philosophy that everything could be improved and he sought to do just that in his field of financial journalism.

Just as Barron strove to improve his industry we can all continuously strive to improve the work we do whatever it may be. I invite you to join me in adopting and implementing this credo: everything can be improved and there is nothing that serves mankind better than the continuous improvement of all human endeavor.

What can you improve today?

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com

Happy Thanksgiving

http://www.parabolicarc.com/2014/11/26/happy-thanksgiving-4/

In 1621 the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians sat down to a feast considered the first Thanksgiving celebration in the colonies that would become the United States. The celebration occurred just a year after the colonists arrived at Plymouth.

A Thanksgiving celebration continued to be celebrated in the United States. In 1863 President Lincoln proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving holiday to be held each November. (Photo credit: http://www.parabolicarc.com/2014/11/26/happy-thanksgiving-4/)

It is believed that the colonists and Indians ate fowl and venison at the feast. There were likely no pies or desserts. There was no sugar available to the colonists though they likely had access to honey. There may have been corn bread, though it would have looked and tasted quite different from what we call corn bread today as they would not likely have had any wheat flour to put in it. They had fruit and especially berries. They likely had wild cranberries which is not a Thanksgiving staple.

See http://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/history-of-thanksgiving  for a full history of the holiday.

Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States. For too many people Thanksgiving has become a holiday from work, a shopping day and a time to watch television. Being thankful is either an afterthought or is absent altogether.

This is sad because we have so much to be thankful for. Steve Pinker did a study on how violence has actually decreased in the world in modern times. He gave a talk on TED radio about it. Because we tend to focus on the bad news about violence we do not see that there is actually less of it.

The world has more freedom than it had just a generation ago. The massive oppressive communist blocks have faded away. There is more democracy in the world.

We are a more affluent world today. There are still problems with poverty for sure, but in fact there is less poverty in the world today than at any time in recent history.

The world is cleaner today thanks to a century of improvement in public sanitation. Medicine today treats thousands of diseases and conditions and prevents others.

The internet and the various devices that connect to it give us access to an almost infinite amount of information, goods and services. It allows us to communicate with ease in a number of different ways and socialize with people all over the world.

Improvements continue to be made in every sphere of our lives.

We have so much to be thankful for. In the world in general and in our own lives. Might this be a good time to reflect on that and be thankful?

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com

How Are Creative Ideas Born?

great_idea2How are creative ideas actually born? Where do they come from? Do you have to be a genius to have a genuinely creative idea?

Ramit Sethi wrote a recent post on this and provides some great insight into the creative process. He writes:

>One of my favorite things to do is pull back the veil on everyday things and see what’s really going on versus what most people think.

To do that today, let’s take a look at this fascinating example of how great ideas are really born.

I recently saw a story about how a waffle iron inspired Nike’s shoes.

From Business Insider: “Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman was having breakfast with his wife one morning in 1971 when it dawned on him that the grooves in the waffle iron she was using would be an excellent mold for a running shoe”

We hear stories about “ah-ha!” moments like this all the time. And they lead us to think that great ideas come as either a result of exceptional brilliance — or dumb luck.

Here’s what actually happened: Bowerman spent nearly a decade studying jogging best-practices, making improvements to athletic footwear designs, and even co-writing a book on running — all years BEFORE he had this idea.

He teamed up with a business partner who had a master’s in business and knew the running shoe market. The two of them earned $3 million selling shoes before designing even one of their own…and starting the business we know as Nike.

While the waffle-iron story is cool, if that’s all we hear, then we miss where the revolutionary idea really came from.

With any creative idea, yes, breakthroughs do happen along the way, but there’s something much deeper going on than inspiration striking down like lightning bolts from the sky.

The myth of “The Great Idea”

Creativity is surrounded in a fog of myths. Just saying the word conjures up images of geniuses scribbling down great ideas with feather pens and Moleskine notebooks… or starving artists chipping away at sculptures all day.

The truth is, creativity is not about magic, and it’s not something reserved for the elite or a trait that only “naturally” creative people have.<<

Read the rest here.

Truly creative ideas rarely burst into our minds fully formed. There is a process and the more you understand that process the more likely you will be able to nurture that creative idea. Creative ideas are built, over time, from existing ideas. They are built by stealing parts of ideas from other sources and modifying or applying them to new situations. Rea the rest of Ramit’s article and get creative!

Source: How creative ideas are really born by Ramit Sethi

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com

Because it has always been done this way

great_idea2The blogger Seth Godin recently wrote this on his blog:

>”Because it has always been this way”

That’s a pretty bad answer to a series of common questions.

Why is the format of the board meeting like this? Why do we always structure our annual conference like this? Why is this our policy? Why do we let him decide these issues? Why is this the price?

The real answer is, “Because if someone changes it, that someone will be responsible for what happens.”

Are you okay with that being the reason things are the way they are?<<

I can relate to this. Thirty-eight years ago I sat in my first class of law school on the first day of school. The day was partially spent with guest speakers brought in to motivate us I guess. Several people spoke including the dean of the law school, the president of the university and others. The one speaker I remember was a federal judge.

The judge told us that throughout our career we would ask the question repeatedly, “why is it done this way?” We would be told over and over again that it has always been done this way.

The judge raised his voice and pounded the podium, “never, never accept that explanation!” he said.

I do not remember anything anyone else said that day. I do not remember anything else the judge said that day. I will never forget that statement however and it has proven so true over the years.

The law is a time honored institution based on tradition and the rule of precedent. Its very DNA is designed to answer that question that way. Because it has always been that way.

It is never a satisfactory answer.

First because it is a lie. Nothing has always been done that way. Everything changes over time, even if, as in the law, it changes very slowly. What people tell you has always been done that way was once a totally new idea, even a revolutionary idea.

Second, it is not a good reason to do anything. What if the way it has always been done is wrong? What if is so out of date that it does not meet current needs and conditions? What if there is a better way to do it? (There is always a better way to do it.)

We should never accept that explanation or justification for doing anything. Yes, tradition is important. Tradition teaches us the lessons of past generations. But it is never enough. There must be a good reason to do it that way. It must be relevant to today’s conditions and needs.

Always ask the crucial question: why are we doing this that way? What purpose does it serve? What problem will it solve? What need does it meet and how? If the traditional answer meets those criteria than it is worthwhile to preserve the tradition. If it does not why should we continue doing it that way?

Read more from Seth Godin.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com

What Can You Learn From Successful People

How to develop your most important tasks

great_idea2The answer is “a lot”. By observing what successful people do and emulating those things you can be more successful.

One of my favorite successful people is Charlie Page. Charlie is a very successful information marketer. He teaches people how to use the internet to earn money. He is also an avid student of success. He studies successful people and learns from them.

Recently Charlie posted this:

“When you study people who succeed you begin to see patterns. By observing these patterns, and considering if they will work for you, you can become more effective.

That is a good thing. It’s called modeling success, and it works.

In the hundreds of books I have read I have noticed one very important pattern.

Every successful person I have studied clearly understands what their most important tasks are, and they make sure to get them done during their day.

Many people call these tasks their “MITs”.

What is a “Most Important Task”? It is that task that needs to be done in order for you to move forward in your life. While it might not be urgent, it is always important.”

Charlie goes on to discuss the people he studies and emulates and then he identifies his most important tasks each day.

Charlie Page’s Most Important Tasks:

Everyday I write.

Everyday I read.

Every day I think.

Every day I file.

Every day I ask questions.

If you read the rest of Charlie’s article you will learn why these five tasks are his most important daily tasks. It is insightful. Your list may be different, in fact it will likely be different. What is important is that Charlie understands what tasks make him most productive and successful in his work and he does them.

You and I can do the same thing.

Read the rest of Charlie’s article here.

 
Learn how to manage your time to achieve more of what you want to do in my book, Effective Time Management.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com

Being Thankful

thanksgiving-1Tomorrow we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States. For too many people Thanksgiving has become a holiday from work, a shopping day and a time to watch television. Being thankful is either an afterthought or is absent altogether.

This is sad because we have so much to be thankful for. Steve Pinker did a study on how violence has actually decreased in the world in modern times. He gave a talk on TED radio about it. Because we tend to focus on the bad news about violence we do not see that there is actually less of it.

The world has more freedom than it had just a generation ago. The massive oppressive communist blocks have faded away. There is more democracy in the world.

We are a more affluent world today. There are still problems with poverty for sure, but in fact there is less poverty in the world today than at any time in recent history.

We have so much to be thankful for. In the world in general and in our own lives. Might this be a good time to reflect on that and be thankful?

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com

The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz, Ph.D.

great_idea2The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz, Ph.D.

Book Review by Daniel R. Murphy

Synopsis of Content:

Schwartz illustrates for us how to use self talk to our advantage and how to defeat those kinds of negative thought that drag us down. He uses a Mr. Triumph and a Mr. Defeat to illustrate this.

In Thinking Big the reader learns how to squelch the voices, both internal and external, that tell us we cannot succeed and how to exploit our ability to use our inner voice to give us more confidence.

Thinking Big means thinking about what we can do and believing in oneself as a self discipline. This 1959 classic is as true and useful today as it was a half century ago. It is further support for the age old concept that when you truly believe you can do it then you can do it, and the how to do it follows. In this book Schwartz gives some good ideas on how to make that your reality.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

This is written in the dense text popular in the 1940s and 1950s. The book may be slow going for modern readers more accustomed to the leaner and better organized books of today. If you can wade through this however it is worth it.

Notes on Author:

The late Dr. David J. Schwartz, Ph.D. was a Georgia State University professor and President of Creative Educational Services, Inc. He was a leading authority on American motivation and leadership. Long before today’s self improvement gurus were teaching self talk Schwartz was teaching people to tell themselves that they are better than they think they are and they will succeed!

Related Website:

Biography home page: http://cornerstone.wwwhubs.com/David_Schwartz.html

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. Think progress and believe in progress and you will find progress and success.

  2. What you think about your own ability and potential will have great influence on what you do ultimately achieve.

  3. Salvage lessons learned from each setback and move forward always.

Publication Information:  

The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz, Ph.D.

Published by Fireside/Simon and Schuster in 1987, ©1959, 1965 Prentice Hall. 238 pages.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.
www.danielrmurphy.com
www.books2wealth.com