Brain Pickings

The Innovator’s Cookbook: Great Minds on the Power of Serendipity

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How to win the future, or what 3D printing has to do with Twitter, Brian Eno and Obama.

Steven Johnson is easily my favorite non-fiction author working today, his writing pure mesmerism and his thinking an epitome of the cross-disciplinary curiosity I so firmly believe is central to creative and intellectual growth. On the heels of his excellent Where Good Ideas Come From comes The Innovator’s Cookbook: Essentials for Inventing What Is Next — a formidable compendium of essays, interviews, and insights on innovation by big thinkers like Richard Florida, John Seely Brown, Peter Drucker and many more, alongside Johnson’s own ever-enchanting writing and new material by tech darlings like Google’s Marissa Mayer and Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey, dethroning innovation from its status of buzzword royalty and approaching it instead with a lucid, thoughtful, cross-disciplinary lens refracting across education, art, science, economics, urban design, and more.

Underpinning the anthology is a message about the essential role serendipity plays in innovation — or, as Johnson puts it, “the importance of getting lost.”

But as a lover of fine book trailers, I was particularly taken with this stop-motion gem on the making of the book’s cover, 3D-printed by MakerBot, one of these 7 open-source platforms changing the future of manufacturing.

It may not be possible to ‘win the future,’ in President Obama’s words, but if we’re going to encourage more innovation, it’s not enough for us to just dig in and work harder. We also need to encourage surprise and serendipity. We need to play each other’s instruments.” ~ Steven Johnson

The Innovator’s Cookbook is part Follow for Now, part Culture, part An Optimist’s Tour of the Future — but, mostly, something entirely original and wholly potent, the way only Johnson can deliver.

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