Where Good Ideas Come From

Reef, City, Web

As a primer to the larger narrative, we explore a couple different concepts on the defining characteristics of new technology:

  • 10/10 Rule — It takes a decade to build the new platform and a decade for it to find a new audience
  • Breakthrough innovations are something that allows you to accomplish two new things (YouTube — Uploading and sharing content) as opposed to one (Analog to HD tv — Higher video quality)
  • Long zoom — The spread of information can be viewed as an hourglass

The Adjacent Possible

In this chapter, we examine how innovation relies on foundational building blocks to unlock change. In every era of time, groundbreaking discoveries were only solidified when the tools of any given generation allowed them to do so.

  • “The multiple” — There have been numerous examples where the same innovations were founded at nearly the same time in completely different locations without any communication between the founders.
  • Figuring out ways to explore the edges of possibility around you
  • Get more parts (or tools) on the table

Liquid networks

When a new innovation is made, liquid networks are responsible for helping those discoveries spread. Takeaways include:

  • Networks should be plastic, capable of adapting new configurations
  • Certain environments enhance the brain’s capacity to make new links of association
  • Cities were largely responsible for fueling inventions and liquid networks
  • Double-entry bookkeeping can be seen as one of the first forms of a city-oriented innovation
  • Large collectives are rarely capable of true creativity or innovation
  • Innovation is more likely to happen among groups than in isolation
  • The social flow of the group conversation turns private state into a liquid network
  • “Flow” carried along a stream of ideas expedites creative capacity
Pikachu enjoying a liquid network :P

The Slow Hunch

Good ideas take time. Despite popular belief, many “eureka” moments are largely the accumulation of years of prior knowledge.

  • Innovation requires the cultivation of hunches.
  • Commonplacing: Assemble a personalized encyclopedia of quotations from all your reading
  • Maintaining a book enables one to “lay up a fund of knowledge from which we may at all times select what is useful in the several pursuits of life”


Serendipity is defined as the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. In this chapter, we explore what influences serendipity and how technology has both helped and hurt its likelihood.

  • Dreams are a particularly chaotic yet productive way of exploring the adjacent possible
  • Phase locking: the process of millions of neurons firing in perfect rhythms
  • Counter-intuitively, the more disorganized your brain is, the smarter you are
  • It’s largely recommended to take an “annual reading vacation”, focusing on new topics that you’ve yet to explore in your professional or personal life.
  • The web has led to a decline of serendipity
  • Filters reduce serendipity
  • Google — the database of intention


Many innovations are the result of what was once perceived as an error. It’s those who are able to recognize that unexplained results may be the result of a new form of thinking or a newly discovered law of science that are truly unique.

  • Good ideas are more likely to emerge in environments that contain a certain amount of noise and error
  • Innovative environments thrive on useful mistakes and suffer when the demands of quality control overwhelm them
  • Fail faster
  • Innovative collisions happen when different fields of expertise converge in some shared physical or intellectual space


Innovation is largely derived from a wholesome perspective. It’s difficult to develop breakthrough ideas when looking through a small lens. Surround yourself with as many different ideologies for the best chance at developing something unique.

  • Weak ties bringing different perspective are fundamental for innovation to arise
  • Innovation at Apple formed from having different teams collaborate with one another
  • Inventors all tend to have a lot of hobbies
  • Networks of enterprise empower multi-tasking


In order for innovation to blossom, platforms must be created for new ideas to prosper. In this chapter, we take a look at what causes new platforms to develop and tips on how they can continue to attract innovation in the long-term.

  • Platform builders and ecosystem engineers are responsible for building an entirely new floor
  • Software platform: a set of tiles and conventions that govern the definition of terms, the collection of data and the boundaries of inquiry for a particular field
  • A good government is one that comes up with innovative solutions to the problems of its citizens or the problems of the bureaucracy itself
  • Innovation thrives in discarded places
  • The real benefit of stacked platforms lies in the knowledge you no longer need to have

The Fourth Quadrant

Tying all these ideas together, the conclusion examines innovation through a graded quadrant by focusing on the concepts of market vs non-market and individual vs groups. The author breaks down different inventions relative to their quadrant to examine the similarities they share.

  • Decentralized pricing mechanisms of the open market allow an entrepreneur to gauge the relative value of his or her innovation.
  • Hybrid economy: An economy which blends elements from the open network of intellectual commons with the more proprietary walks and tariffs of the private sphere
  • There are good ideas and then there are good ideas which allow others to have good ideas
  • Ideas rise in crowds
  • Good ideas rise where connection is valued more than protection
  • When it comes to innovation, build a tangled bunk

Overarching Takeaways

As someone who spends most of his time alone, this book was an excellent medium to encourage more social interaction. While the internet often serves as a great mechanism for feeling constantly engaged, there’s something to be said for happenstance interactions and putting yourself in a position to hear and leverage new perspectives.



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Cooper Turley

Cooper Turley

Chance favors the connected mind. Focused on building communities by making crypto cool again.