Steven Johnson attributed innovation less to giant genii. Instead, he believed a combustion of innovations come when all the right elements evolved to the right maturity point.
Innovation is a continuous incremental improvements and tinkering, mostly waiting for the right technologies to emerge and then to apply them in a clever way. It is much less than a lone genius having a light-bulb moment: the apple that fell on Newton, the Eureka shouted out by Euclid, or similar stories were misleading. I like this for two reasons: I am not a genius, and I don’t want to count on genii for the success of my organization. Engineering is about a methodology. Luck helps, but not a necessity.
This is a different kind of history book. The angle Steven Johnson took was unique. One of the thread was on “Cold”. He tracked the history of how human cool down the environment: from storing ice blocks to the advances of refrigeration technologies, as well as their applications. Another one was on the history of human beings clean themselves. I did not know that, until recently, bathing was considered unhealthy! Submerging one in water was bad for health.
This book was a quick read and quite entertaining, at least for this geek. Clearly there was a PBS series on this. I might dig them out some days.