Where good ideas come from: the natural history of innovation

Johnson, S. (2010). Where good ideas come from: the natural history of innovation. New York: Riverhead Books.

Steven Johnson, prolific writer on science, argues that there are four quadrants of innovation split into, you guessed it, a two-by-two matrix with the dimensions Individual to Network and Market to Non-Market. He labels these 1 - 4 (which makes it really hard to remember which quadrant he is talking about. If only he had used mnemonically sound abbreviations).

This is an important addition to the works on where and how innovation develops and where it thrives.

Johnson argues that innovation originally came from quadrant 1, with independent, market-driven entrepreneurs, but that it is rapidly moving to quadrant 4, non market driven, created by networks of workers. As he puts it (in a footnote):

The magic square is the fourth one: that of decentralized, non-market environments. This is a combination that does not easily fit the standard boxes of capitalism and socialism. Yet in recent years, this quadrant has been a hothouse of innovation, thanks in large part to the open architecture of the internet.

If you read Doctorow's novel, Makers, this is precisely where Doctorow places all his action: in the open-source, networked community. But Doctorow has his characters conflicted between the desirability of market versus non-market goals and practices. In part, he concludes, one cannot avoid the market.

Link to Where Good Ideas Come From on Amazon.com