The best innovation labs are always a little contaminated

From “Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation” by Steven Johnson


Nemeth has gone on to document the same phenomenon at work in dozens of different environments: mock juries, boardrooms, academic seminars. Her research suggests a paradoxical truth about innovation: good ideas are more likely to emerge in environments that contain a certain amount of noise and error. You would think that innovation would be more strongly correlated with the values of accuracy, clarity, and focus. A good idea has to be correct on some basic level, and we value good ideas because they tend to have a high signal-to-noise ratio. But that doesn’t mean you want to cultivate those ideas in noise-free environments, because noise-free environments end up being too sterile and predictable in their output. The best innovation labs are always a little contaminated.