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The Idea Factory by Jon Gertner.. Get over the idea of the brilliant individual, the rogue genius. Gertner shines the light on innovation as a function of community. Yes, people, we do our best work when we work together, as this history of the incubator hothouse Bell Labs shows. Brilliant!

Joel Gardner, LitSnap Editor

"Jon Gertner, an editor at Fast Company magazine, has produced a well-­researched history of Bell Labs, filled with colorful characters and inspiring lessons. But more important, “The Idea Factory” explores one of the most critical issues of our time: What causes innovation? Why does it happen, and how might we nurture it? The lesson of Bell Labs is that most feats of sustained innovation cannot and do not occur in an iconic garage or the workshop of an ingenious inventor. They occur when people of diverse talents and mind-sets and expertise are brought together, preferably in close physical proximity where they can have frequent meetings and serendipitous encounters."

The New York Times

"You can happily join this egghead circus in The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation, Jon Gertner’s fascinating history of the phone company’s R&D brain from its inception in 1925, on West Street between 11th and 12th in Manhattan, to its federal dismemberment in 1984 and present legacy in your iPhone. At Bell Labs, a sense of humor, not to mention patience, was required during a period that Shockley described as “the natural blundering process of finding one’s way.” The path to lasers, radars, satellites, and decent phone service was full of all manner of unplanned genius and gee-whiz."


Author bio: Jon Gertner grew up in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey—just a few hundred yards away from Bell Labs. He has been a writer for the New York Times Magazine since 2004 and is currently an editor at Fast Company magazine. He lives in New Jersey, with his wife and two children. More information can be found here:

Book Details: Science/Technology; (432 pp. Invento-magical: Kindle/Print editiotns)

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