Atul Gawande, MIT’s Neri Oxman at Boston Book Fest

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Video: “creativity and innovation thought leaders”

The Boston Book Festival, which took place October 16, put on some exceptional panel discussions. One of the most interesting featured four folks who individually could have taken up all the time on their own:

  • Atul Gawande, surgeon and author of The Checklist Manifesto;
  • Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation;
  • David Edwards, inventor and author of The Lab; and
  • Neri Oxman, computer scientist, designer and assistant professor at the MIT Media Lab (above, at PopTech 2009)

Video of their 51 minute conversation is titled “Good Ideas.” Edwards starts things off, talking about his network of idea laboratories.

Oxman is next, at 11:00, and she talks about product design that’s drawn from observing and reinterpreting nature, like soda cans made from thinner materials built on natural geometric patterns and “skins” for the exterior of buildings that are modeled after shark skin.

Johnson, starting at 24:30, talks about how, when he was researching his book The Ghost Map, about the 1854 London cholera epidemic, he found that every ‘fact’ he initially thought he knew about that episode turned out to be wrong. It wasn’t a lone genius who figured out the source of the cholera; instead, “it turned out it was much more complex, and I think, really, it was much more interesting — it was a collaborative effort, it was a networked effort.” He says his new book about where good ideas come is an evolution of what he covered more latently in The Ghost Map. “There are seven patterns of innovation,” he says, including “the slow hunch,” which stands in contrast to the so-called eureka moment.

Gawande, at 37:30, talks about the disconnect between great ideas and execution — essentially, the role of human error. “The fact of human failure, maybe as a surgeon, is particularly of interest to me,” he said.

“I think that we’ve arrived at a point where the amount of knowledge in the world that we are asked to cope with, the complexity and volume, is now exceeding our abilities as humans beings to master it all,” he says.


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Comments (2)
Joel Kessell
I don't understand when Gawande says there is a struggle to reach everybody with great ideas in this age of overwhelming connectivity...
Apropos of Steven Johnson's observation (“There are seven patterns of innovation,” he says, including “the slow hunch,” which stands in contrast to the so-called eureka moment), an article that I read recently ( some recent research on the possible importance of 'peace' and slowness in the creative process, and summarises other recent studies in the field of creativity and innovation.