One of the thrilling--and at the same time frustrating--things about writing a book that takes on a Grand Theme, rather than a specific narrative, is that there invariably seems to be an endless supply of potential material for the project: stories, theories, academic papers, personal anecdotes, and more. This is certainly the case with the question of innovation, the subject matter of my last book, Where Good Ideas Come From, which comes out in paperback this week. Part of what I do as a writer is take people on intellectual tours--pulling them down some interesting, but long-neglected corridor in the museum of human achievement. (This happens to be one of things that I love about my job.) But with innovation, there were just too many corridors--too many stories to tell, too many other writers on the subject, to do them all justice.
And so a few months after Good Ideas came out, my gifted publisher at Riverhead, Geoffrey Kloske, suggested that we put together an anthology of classic essays on innovation to accompany the paperback release of Good Ideas. I thought it seemed like a brilliant idea, since there were many important essays by some of my heroes -- Stewart Brand, John Seely Brown, Erik Von Hippel -- whose work I wanted to celebrate. But it also occurred to me that we could do more than just a straight collection of essays. So many of the important concepts in Good Ideas had come from informal conversations I'd had with actual, working innovators, not from essays or scholarly publications on the subject. So we ultimately decided on a hybrid of sorts: a collection of some of the seminal texts on innovation, paired with a series of conversations that I conducted with innovators from different fields, among them Ray Ozzie on software; Brian Eno on music and art; Beth Noveck on government innovation.
And so, a little more than eight months later, we have a delightful new book, The Innovator's Cookbook: Essentials For Inventing What's Next, featuring essays and interviews by and with a long list of luminaries. (I also wrote a new introduction to the collection.) Appropriately enough, the book has an innovative cover design, with type treatment created with a 3D Makerbot printer. We've created a little video that shows a strangely hypnotic time-lapse view of the cover-creation process, with my voiceover talking about some of the principles of innovation that came out of the conversations in the book.
For the next few days, I'm going to be running some excerpts from those "Innovators at Work" conversations here, but in the meantime, take my word for it -- they're worth reading in their entirety. And if you haven't picked up a copy of Where Good Ideas Come From yet -- seriously, what is wrong with you? Go get it!