By just the title, I had envisioned a business book. However, this was more pop science and history. This is great if you are interested in learning about Darwin's exploits, but probably less so if you want a self help book.
Good stories about good ideas. Johnson devotes a chapter each of a set of seven qualities of innovation, and for the most part it all makes a lot of sense and is well said. People have already said a lot of it before, though, and sometimes Johnson's new terminology is rebranding an old idea. When Johnson coins a new idiom I think he's well-intentioned and trying to update a previous idea with a modern conception, so it's not negligent per se, but perhaps unnecessary.
The book goes into the inception and adoption of good ideas as told through a slew of Johnson's science history anecdotes (this reminded me of Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything) and the reader gets a sense of the slow rise of an idea, in a mind or a larger network of minds, from unseen depths before the "Eureka!" when it splashes through the surface into the public spotlight. Johnson explains this as "The Slow Hunch" to contradict a widespread misconception that solo genius drives the bulk of progress (not unlike the thrust of Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers). A particularly interesting bit addresses a topic that's getting more attention lately, power laws for cities, which display better-than-expected innovation (as measured by patent density, e.g.) among other peculiarly powerful trends.
I was hoping that Johnson would build his seven broad patterns into a platform for a compelling conclusion, but instead Johnson is content to leave it as a platform and concludes with a summary of how to think about the individual struts of the framework rather than explicit theorizing on what his framework might support. I can't say I wouldn't have hesitated too were I in Johnson's journalistic shoes, but I can't help but think it a bit sheepish given the provocative nature of the build-up. He doesn't go far enough to succinctly answer the question behind the book's title.
A worthwhile listen despite its faults! I do think it could be better read by the author, but that's only a hypothetical.
The book is a marvelous exploration of how ideas are formed, inspired and cultivated, and the writing is lucid and compelling.
Such a pity that the reader insists on attempting a foreign accent for every citation, an exercise that is pointless and distracting. The reader's attempt at a German accent early in the book when citing Goethe was so painful that I had to stop mid-stride and hold my gut.
Please read the book but avoid this audio version.
This book was fascinating at first but that tapers off and eventually gets really boring. The reading was great though!
Good book all around.
This book is verbose without a sense direction; which lost my interest in listening after an hour or two. It was factually repetitive to what is commonly known which contributed to it being boring. And that narration. Poor at best. Trying to come from the "over the top" verbal inflections and those impressions, just bad...bad.
There were many parts, but here are two. I loved the story of the two "showman" doctors who developed baby incubators and then found a way to pay for them by putting them on exhibit (with live babies inside)...in the shops of Paris...and then, the second doctor put them on exhibit in Berlin, London, and the U.S., with the longest standing exhibit at Coney Island, NY. I also liked the story of the young man who rather accidentally became the "father" of air conditioning... Great story!
I love books that arouse and then satisfy my curiosity.
Steven Johnson is a wonderful writer!
This is nonfiction, not a novel or a historical re-enactment. The narrator breaks out into English and French accents whenever he can, which is very distracting.
Interesting title, with many examples. Slightly short on substance, I think the author could have elaborated more on his theories for these topics.