Where Good Ideas Come from – The Natural History of Innovation

And what do we need to know and do to have more of them?

Key take-away: The trick to having good ideas is not to sit around in glorious isolation and try to think big thoughts. The trick is to get more parts on the table.

Learn how:
– a slow hunch can be much more valuable than a Eureka moment
– the connected ‘hive mind’ is smarter than the lone thinker
– where you think matters just as much as what you’re thinking
– the best ideas come from building on the ideas and inventions of others.

From the Renaissance to satellites, medical breakthroughs to social media, Charles Darwin to Marconi, Steven Johnson shows how patterns of creativity occur.

Johnson counters the colloquial description of good ideas as sparks, flashes or eureka moments and likens them to networks. For new ideas the sheer size of network is needed and it needs to be plastic – capable of reconfiguration. Innovation thrives on a wide pool of minds. The eureka moment is usually preceded by the slow hunch like Darwin’s theory of evolution that developed over many years.

Johnson extols the power of accidental connections or serendipity in the recognition of the significance of the new ideas. Innovation prospers when ideas can be serendiptiously connected and recombined with other ideas, when hunches can stumble across other hunches. Walls dividing ideas such as patents, trade secrets and proprietary technology inhibit serendipidy. Open environments are more conducive to innovation than closed.

Error which creates a path that leads you out of your comfort zone and exaptation , which are traits optimised for a specific use getting hijacked for a completely different use (birds feathers evolved for warmth proving useful for flying) are key paths to innovation. The history of the world wide web designed for the academic environment now used for shopping, sharing photos and Google.

Johnson classifies sources of key innovations from 1400 to the present day according to whether they were driven by the individual or a network and whether they were market driven or non market. He concludes that non market, open platform networked approach is now far more prolific. Witness Google, Twitter, Amazon.

Powerful , often controversial but immensely readable. The appendix alone describing the key innovations from 1400 to now is a fascinating read. …”

Borrow it from a public library, look for it in a charity shop, go to this bookshop down your high street and enjoy the stroll in the sunshine, or maybe find it online and you know how it goes.

Great read I recommend.

Time Management Hacks That Very Successful People Practice Daily

Take-away: there are indeed efficient ways to save time, just give it a try and you’ll be surprised….

Very good article by John Rampton. I would agree with most of the advices here , but I am not too sure about #8: gamification does not really work for me…


“Timeboxing” is what will make your to do lists work

Take-away: put your tasks in your calendar if you want to get things done

Use a calendar rather than a to do list if you want to achieve your objectives.

I think it’s fair to say that anyone who has ever tried to get their work organised with to do lists has experienced the overwhelming and discouraging feeling of never getting things done in time and never seeing the end of it. For me, the answer is to “timebox” tasks, and the easiest way is to use a simple calendar application, such as Microsoft Outlook, Google Calendar or Apple iCal.

How does it work? The idea is to plot your tasks in the order you intend to tackle these, working around meetings, calls and various bookings you already have in your calendar, and most importantly, allocating enough time to each individual task you plan. You will shuffle tasks around by dragging and dropping them in available slots and make them fit the profile of your day best – you will be surprised how satisfying that is. You will also plan at week level and prioritise tasks accordingly, pushing less urgent tasks to the “last responsible moment”, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, next week, freeing time and piece of mind for the most pressing ones.

As a result you will follow a reasonable and achievable plan, instead of trying to get through a never ending and daunting list of tasks.

This is the way I have been organising my work for quite a while now. It’s not perfect, but it helps me a lot manage my time and priorities. I now actually only use to do lists to prepare projects, identify activities and make sure nothing gets forgotten – by the way, these to do lists end up in Gantt charts or as User Stories in Sprints, which are also ways to factor in the time dimension in the planning of tasks.

There are a few more hacks that really make it work for me:
– I try to not fit more than five “1hour things” that need to be done in a day – experience has shown unless you don’t attend any meeting or don’t take any phone call it’s really difficult to do more.
– I follow the very strict rule that anything that takes less time to do than it would to get planned should be done immediately.
– I dedicate time slots for emails or chat and I only check emails or Slack once every hour, usually when I raise from my desk to go get a fresh glass of water or a coffee (my screen and sound notifications are off). I only scan messages and if possible, I leave actions for later.
– I color code meetings so that these stand out in my diary.

– I use the Saturday to store the backlog of the things that are not urgent but that I don’t want to forget (and yes I drag and drop these every week… that’s an opportunity to go through these and not forget important ones)
– I use the Sunday to store the backlog of things I need to do in the coming week
– I use the 00:00 to 08:00 slots of each day to store the things I plan to do on that day, even if I have not assigned a time to it yet – I drag and drop tasks from that area into the day every end of day for the next day, or as my day start. Things that do not fit today move to the next day, 00:00 to 08:00.

The benefits for me are clear:
– it’s much easier for me to plan my days and I start everyday with a clear schedule of activities
– I deliver more often on time, especially if there is no last minute emergency or unexpected meeting
– I don’t overcommit
– I control risk and dependencies much better
– I end the day with a much greater awareness of my achievements and I have increased confidence on what I will be able to tackle the next day.

It really helps me get things done. Does this also work for you? Drop me a note.

How To Get Faster at Doing Things

Take-away: not everything works for everyone, but there are plenty of good ideas out there

A bit of everything for everyone in this article by Dumitriu Robert – not bad to start my series.


“…Things will add up. A minute here. An hour there. You will adjust. 
A good night sleep can lead to a good waking up experience which can lead to a calm mindset which can lead to a good workout which can lead to a good and productive work day which can lead to a good day which can lead to a happy life…”