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  • How Innovation Works

  • Serendipity, Energy and the Saving of Time
  • By: Matt Ridley
  • Narrated by: Matt Ridley
  • Length: 13 hrs and 10 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (82 ratings)

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How Innovation Works

By: Matt Ridley
Narrated by: Matt Ridley
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Publisher's Summary

Building on his bestseller The Rational Optimist, Matt Ridley chronicles the history of innovation, and how we need to change our thinking on the subject.

Innovation is the main event of the modern age, the reason we experience both dramatic improvements in our living standards and unsettling changes in our society. It is innovation that will shape the twenty-first century. Yet innovation remains a mysterious process, poorly understood by policy makers and businessmen alike.

Matt Ridley argues that we need to see innovation as an incremental, bottom-up, fortuitous process that happens as a direct result of the human habit of exchange, rather than an orderly, top-down process developing according to a plan. Innovation is crucially different from invention, because it is the turning of inventions into things of practical and affordable use to people. It speeds up in some sectors and slows down in others. It is always a collective, collaborative phenomenon, involving trial and error, not a matter of lonely genius. It still cannot be modelled properly by economists, but it can easily be discouraged by politicians. Far from there being too much innovation, we may be on the brink of an innovation famine.

Ridley derives these and other lessons from the lively stories of scores of innovations – from steam engines to search engines – how they started and why they succeeded or failed.

©2019 Matt Ridley (P)2019 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic Reviews

"What a superb writer he is, and he seems to get better and better." (Richard Dawkins, author of The Selfish Gene)

"An insightful and charming exploration of questions that range from the truly profound (How does our species capture energy to stave off decay and death?) to the merely fascinating (Why did it take us so long to invent the wheeled suitcase?)" (Steven Pinker, Johnstone professor, Harvard University, and author of Enlightenment Now)

"From the Stone Age to smartphones and from farming to fission, Matt Ridley demonstrates with a plethora of examples how innovation has changed and, for the most part, improved the human condition, despite repeated resistance and frequent failure. Given the freedom of thought that innovation needs, he argues, we can ensure the survival of the planet. We abandon it or constrain it at our peril." (Sir Tim Laurence, chairman of English Heritage)

What listeners say about How Innovation Works

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a good overview

This is a good overview of innovation, historical and modern examples, the driving forces behind them and the forces that limit future innovation. you will have to forgive the author expressing his bias in places. But overall, this is a great book.

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Great book

Interesting and well researched book. Matt’s writing style, as always, is informative and engaging and not self-righteous or smug like some in this field of writing.

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Engineering wonders that changed the world we live in.

I was not expecting the history lesson in this book but I very much enjoyed it. The author makes many great points about the human progress in innovation, much of it I could relate to.

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Fantastic book

Fabulously well-researched and fascinating insights into a much misunderstood topic. Can’t recommend it highly enough. Would recommend to anyone and everyone with a critical mind and a thirst for understanding.

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Interesting and Challenging

very interesting and challenged some of the ideas that have become mainstream. I really enjoyed the reminder of how we got here

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Very interesting read

Picked this up after listening to Matt Ridley’s appearance on the Naval podcast. Great read especially for my context of working in digital product development. Great to hear examples of innovation throughout history and Ridley does a great job of pulling the lessons and trends from previous innovations. Key lessons are that innovation is a team effort, builds on each other, is an iterative process and is inevitable if given the freedom to do so.

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Best non fiction listen of 2020

I’m a big fan of Matt Ridley’s books. I loved the Red Queen and The Rational Optimist is one of my all time favourites. This new audiobook from him is the best audiobook I’ve listened to in 2020. Narration is perfect. Its never dry and is always thought provoking and engaging. If you enjoyed Factfulness by Hans Rosling you will also enjoy this.

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An important remedy for many current troubles

Engaging to the end, and ending with a flourish not a wimper.
Filled with interesting anecdotes supporting compelling reasons for speeding up innovation and encouraging experiments as the way to discover solutions to problems of our time.

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