Transcript for Steven Johnson: Where good ideas come from

Jeg har lige tilbragt 20 meget stimulerende minutter i selskab med Steven Johnson, som i denne TED-TALK guider os igennem, hvorledes gode ideer fødes – historisk og psykologisk.

Jeg har herunder indsat den lange udgave af foredraget (de 20. minutter er godt givet ud) og den hurtige gennemgang på ca. 4. minutter (skal ses!)

Rigtig god fornøjelse!


Just a few minutes ago, I took this picture about 10 blocks from here. This is the Grand Cafe here in Oxford. I took this picture because this turns out to be the first coffeehouse to open in England in 1650. That’s its great claim to fame. And I wanted to show it to you, not because I want to give you the kind of Starbucks tour of historic England, but rather because the English coffeehouse was crucial to the development and spread of one of the great intellectual flowerings of the last 500 years, what we now call the Enlightenment.

And the coffeehouse played such a big role in the birth of the Enlightenment, in part, because of what people were drinking there. Because, before the spread of coffee and tea through British culture, what people drank — both elite and mass folks drank — day-in and day-out, from dawn until dusk was alcohol. Alcohol was the daytime beverage of choice. You would drink a little beer with breakfast and have a little wine at lunch, a little gin — particularly around 1650 — and top it off with a little beer and wine at the end of the day. That was the healthy choice, right, because the water wasn’t safe to drink. And so, effectively, until the rise of the coffeehouse, you had an entire population that was effectively drunk all day. And you can imagine what that would be like, right, in your own life — and I know this is true of some of you — if you were drinking all day, and then you switched from a depressant to a stimulant in your life, you would have better ideas. You would be sharper and more alert. And so it’s not an accident that a great flowering of innovation happened as England switched to tea and coffee.

But the other thing that makes the coffeehouse important is the architecture of the space. It was a space where people would get together from different backgrounds, different fields of expertise, and share. It was a space, as Matt Ridley talked about, where ideas could have sex. This was their conjugal bed, in a sense. Ideas would get together there. And an astonishing number of innovations from this period have a coffeehouse somewhere in their story.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about coffeehouses for the last five years, because I’ve been kind of on this quest to investigate this question of where good ideas come from. What are the environments that lead to unusual levels of innovation, unusual levels of creativity? What’s the kind of environmental — what is the space of creativity? And what I’ve done is I’ve looked at both environments like the coffeehouse; I’ve looked at media environments, like the World Wide Web, that have been extraordinarily innovative; I’ve gone back to the history of the first cities; I’ve even gone to biological environments, like coral reefs and rainforests, that involve unusual levels of biological innovation; and what I’ve been looking for is shared patterns, kind of signature behavior that shows up again and again in all of these environments. Are there recurring patterns that we can learn from, that we can take and kind of apply to our own lives, or our own organizations, or our own environments to make them more creative and innovative? And I think I’ve found a few.

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