The next big thing starts with a simple idea.

The Idea Factory

By Jon Gertner

Before Silicon Valley became the cradle of American technological innovation, AT&T’s Bell Labs in sylvan New Jersey produced the revolutionary inventions that changed the world, including radar, lasers, transistors, and more. Gertner’s narrative showcases the personalities behind this sustained burst of creativity and captures the manic energy that powered a place that sometimes had PhDs riding unicycles in the halls.

Where Good Ideas Come From

By Steven Johnson

From Darwin to Facebook, Johnson shares the history of innovation and the seven things that help foster great ideas in his signature culturally omnivorous style. The author of The Innovator’s Cookbook concedes that, yes, advances happen after hunches are followed, but sometimes it takes a mistake or two for true brilliance to germinate. As Johnson writes, “Being right keeps you in place. Being wrong forces us to explore.”

Imagine: How Creativity Works

By Jonah Lehrer

Creativity isn’t just for the artistically inclined. In his new book, Wired contributing editor Lehrer shares how creativity can be cultivated in individuals, corporations, and whole communities by studying some of history’s most inventive individuals and their game-changing creations. He arrives at simple methods that can quickly promote creativity, whether it means centralizing the bathrooms, painting everything blue, or putting an end to all brainstorming meetings.


By Michael Michalko

While an officer in the U.S. Army, Michalko organized a team of NATO intelligence specialists and international academics to research, collect, and categorize all known inventive-thinking methods. Later, as a civilian contractor, he was hired by the CIA to facilitate think tanks and cultivate dynamic minds. Here he shares his problem-solving techniques, as well as examples of successful applications of each “Thinkertoy”, with the teeming masses yearning to be creative.

The Genius Factory

By David Plotz

Want your baby to be smart? Why not use the sperm of a Nobel Prize winner? This was ecentric millionaire Robert Graham’s big idea back in 1980: to amass a donor network of recognized geniuses and sell their genetic material to the highest bidder. Plotz doggedly tracks down some of the children and families involved in this completely audacious breeding experiment, dubbed The Repository for Germinal Choice, which closed in 1999.