Lightbulb Moments

We tend to think of scientists hatching a paradigm-shifting idea while hunched over a lab bench. Even the language we use to describe these insights convey lonely genius: an epiphany, a lightbulb, a eureka moment. A new book by technology writer Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From dispels that image.

Taking examples from commerce, science, and the arts, Johnson shows how ideas with lasting impact emerge from social networks. He cites the work of psychologist Kevin Dunbar. In his research, molecular biologists achieved their greatest discoveries not through experiments, but at lab meetings. In sharing mistakes and posing theories with colleagues, they stimulated new discoveries.

It’s become fashionable to decry meetings, but great ideas emerge from the human interaction that goes on in groups.

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