August 18, 2015

The Innovators by Walter Isaacson

Over the weekend, I finished reading the book "The Innovators" by Walter Isaacson. I thought it was an informative and inspiring read. 

The book starts with the story of Ada, Countess of Lovelace and ends with the author's reflections on how her vision has become reality some 150 years later. 

Some of my key takeaways:
  • The intersection of liberal arts and technology, as Steve Jobs has repeatedly said in the past, is key to achieving what the human mind conceives. Sciences and arts are not opposites but rather partners. It is when both work together that great ideas are born, nurtured and brought to life.
  • Collaboration trumps individual excellence. Each of the individuals featured in the book are outstanding and special in their own right, but many of the individuals who truly broke through and made change did so not by themselves but often as a result of either direct collaboration with others or by being inspired by the work of others.
  • Innovation is also brought about by being at the right place at the right time. In several instances in the book, it seemed that the next big innovation was being developed simultaneously in different geographic locations by completely different teams without any notion of each other. It paints a picture that aligns with human evolution. The previous wave of change brought forward a new young group of thinkers who push in many different directions but often land on similar places. Just like how humans evolved different civilizations in different parts of the world. Maybe a way for mother nature to hedge its bets? It makes me wonder whether this type of evolution is still applicable in today's connected world. Today, one can simply google to find out if an idea exists and has been developed half a world away.
  • The book stops with the story of Sergey Brin and Larry Page and how they developed their search algorithm. It seems that Web 2.0 was not discussed in detail. Maybe because the current wave of innovations are still happening and no one knows if or when it will stop. Most likely the next chapter of the book would have covered the rise of social networks and the birth of the sharing economy.  
I would recommend others to grab a copy of this book and read through its pages, if only to get a better understanding and appreciation for the things we have today that we consider normal. Happy to hear what you all think, please leave your thoughts in the comments section.