One of the best chapters I have read in Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson, is “Serendipity”. Here are a few snippets:
The English language is blessed with a wonderful word that captures the power of accidental connection: “serendipity”
Serendipitous discoveries often involve exchanges across traditional disciplines.
The history of innovation is replete with stories of good ideas that occurred to people while they were out for a stroll.
The shower or stroll removes you from the task-based focus of modern life – paying bills, answering email, helping kids with homework – and deposits you in a more associative state. Given enough time, your mind will often stumble across some old connection that it had long overlooked, and you experience that delightful feeling of private serendipity: Why didn’t I think of that before?
While the creative walk can produce new serendipitous combinations of existing ideas in our heads, we can cultivate serendipity in they way that we absorb new ideas from the outside world. Reading remains an unsurpassed vehicle for the transmission of interesting new ideas and perspectives.
The problem with assimilating new ideas at the fringes of your daily routine is that the potential combinations are limited by the reach of your memory.
He talks about the web
No medium in history has ever offered such unlikely trails of connections and chance in such an intuitive and accessible form.
If the architecture of serendipity lies in stumbling across surprising connections while scanning the front page (of a news paper), then the web is more than 10 times as serendipitous as the classing print newspaper.
There can be little doubt that the web is an unrivaled medium for serendipity if you are actively seeking it out.
I do not want to clutter these gems with my thoughts. But after finishing this chapter, I went on a random walk into Wikipedia with some surprising discoveries.
This book is worth buying and reading just for this chapter alone. It is not only thought provoking but extremely inspiring as well.