(Book Notes) How Innovation works

14 February 2021

A book notes in progress

I’m currently reading Matt Ridley’s How Innovation Works. I’m pretty slow at it and the reason is that it consists of great concepts and great ideas that need to be digested. This reminds me of Naval Ravikant’s podcast episode where he and Matt discuss about the book. At one point Naval said that he had to put down the book several times just to absorb a great passage and just take it in. I can totally relate.

I’ll put a section in the end for related links and recourses.

Key takeaways

  • Knowledge is a collective process. Instead of thinking that there is a genius in isolation that comes up with all the great ideas and lead innovation, we can view it from a different angle. Necessity breeds innovation and often from the most humble and unexpected places. Each inventor took stuff, either consciously of not, from other fellow inventors in order to innovate. Many times having the role of a bedrock or foundation for other to follow.
  • Some people take the role of the populariser, where they make the idea go mainstream and as a result have wider adoption. There are people who work on something specific that requires high specialised skill, while others take what has been done before and bring everything together. Innovation needs all of them.
  • Ideas are a dime a dozen. Everyone has a great idea but most don’t realise the enormous work that has to be done in order to pull it of. This reminds me of Derek Siver’s blog post ”Ideas are just a multiplier of execution” where the idea adds up when there is great execution. The execution gives the idea value and not the other way around.


From the book itself or from one of Matt’s interviews about the book.

The first version of a new technology looks surprisingly like the last version of an old technology.


Matt Ridley: How Innovation Works, Part 1 Naval Ravikant podcast

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