Remixing Innovation

This post originally appeared June 29, 2011 on

A few months back, I finished reading a book by Steven Johnson called Where Good Ideas Come From. For a while now, I have intended to write a review of the book, but lets be honest, I suck at book reviews. It is difficult enough to encapsulate so many good ideas (pun not intended) into a short post for a book that was just ok. It is infinitely more difficult when the book you read is this amazing.

Thankfully, I have been saved from such a task by the latest installment of the Everything is a Remix (part 3).

One of the things I find so amusing is that this entire video contains elements that could have come directly from Steven Johnson’s book. Many of the examples and all of the themes in the video exist in the book, in a condensed and concise format. The book expands and adds to these concepts a great deal. I highly recommend reading the former and watching the later.

As a teaser, I’ll give you my favorite quite from the video:
We can’t introduce anything new until we’re fluent in the language of our domain, and we do that through emulation.
Do you remember your first project? The one where you were lost about what to do so you grabbed a bunch of templates, formatted your notes into them and prayed no one noticed you were just making all of this up? Yeah, me, too.

Do you remember your most recent project (assuming they’re not the same one)? When you compare the two can you see how your actions in the first project, for good or ill, led you to what you’ve done most recently?

Its all remix, yet when we recombine things, sometimes we hit upon something that fits just perfectly. Its why everyone has created or modified an existing requirements or project plan at one time or another. Something wasn’t right, you had this idea you got from a different domain, you put them together and something just clicked. You innovated.

What I think frustrates me the most about innovation is how most people just don’t get what ‘it’ really is. We’re told to “Go get creative; find a solution that doesn’t blow the budget, can be implemented by a typing monkey and will be done in two weeks” yet those issuing that edict don’t seem to get that good ideas can’t be forced in that way. Yes, 'creativity’, if defined as 'slap something against the wall and hope it sticks before I lose my job’, then I can help you with that in a short time frame with no budget or resources.

But if you want a solution that is fully conceived, builds upon the right foundations in knowledge and infrastructure and, most important, actually solves the real problem, you probably want to put some effort behind it besides driving the whip.