What You Need To Know About Creating An Innovative Atmosphere

In his Ted Talk, Steven Johnson argues that coffee shops created The Enlightenment

What are the environments that lead to unusual levels of innovation and creativity?

When people think of inventions, they fixate on the inventor: their mindset and their process. However, the environment in which fosters this innovation is arguably more important than the person. In his Ted Talk, Steven Johnson claimed that the enlightenment, a time of accelerated progressive thinking, was a product of coffee shops. Water in the 17th century was so unsafe to drink, people were forced to drink alcoholic beverages as a substitute. As water became safer, people began to switch from alcohol to coffee and tea. They were no longer intoxicated all day long and their minds became sharper. The coffee itself was helping the brain stay stimulated and clear, while the collaborative atmosphere of the coffee shop contributed to the innovative process. Coffee shops in the 1600s were a social place where people with different background and expertise congregated together and talked about a dissimilar mix of ideas. Through discussion, these concepts would morph together to create unique discoveries that no person could have achieved alone. To Steven, ideas are not a single stroke of genius. Ideas are an interconnected innovation born from a network of creative chaos.

Early 2015, Starbuck CEO Howard Shultz instructed his employees to write #RaceTogether on Starbucks cups and initiate conversations about race. This was launched in an “effort to spark a national dialogue about race in response to the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.”

If his theory is correct, how can we apply this to our everyday lives? How can companies, labs, and classrooms create this collaborative chaos? We can improve group settings by promoting intellectual and experiential diversity. Furthermore, we can improve our personal innovative process by learning a wide variety of information. This method universally applicable and can help the world cultivate a more creative atmosphere.

“Chance favors the connected mind.”


It’s clear that multiple people can work together to create a truly spectacular idea. However, is it possible for two separate people to come up with the same idea independently? Find out in the next installment of “8 Stories That Will Make You Rethink Innovation.”