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Innovative Insights & Ideas

Innovation is defined as "the adoption of new practice in a community" in "The Innovator’s Way," reports Nancy F. Cohen in the New York Times (9/5/10). Written by Peter J. Denning and Robert Dunham, the book "sets out to understand how individuals and organizations can raise the rate of effective innovation." The authors set forth various principles and explore "effective leadership, specifically how people create and sustain change in groups."

Another new book on innovation, "Where Good Ideas Come From," by Steven Johnson examines the context of innovation, "including the physical, social, technological and economic conditions … in which successful innovation occurs." Two examples of innovative environments are the internet and the city, which Steven uses "as a backdrop" to identify seven patterns that distinguish "unusually fertile environments." The patterns "include the power of the slow hunch and the role of serendipity, error and inventive borrowing."

A key premise is that innovation happens "when ideas can serendipitously connect and recombine with other ideas." However, Steven notes "that a great deal of the past two centuries of legal and folk wisdom about innovation has pursued the exact opposite argument, building walls between ideas," in the form of "patents, trade secrets and protections of intellectual property" which he says effectively reduce the "overall network of minds that can potentially engage with a problem."