Contaminated Labs

Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From could also be called Where Good Posts Come From. I’ve got at least a half dozen posts rumbling around in my head as a result of that book. This is one of them.

There’s a line in the book I love:


The best innovation labs are always a little bit contaminated


The line comes at the end of a section that explains how noisy signals, mutation errors, and screwups often lead to great things.

I’ve seen this in startups. If you look at our thirty something portfolio companies you will find that many of the most successful companies have been highly chaotic organizations for a significant part of their existence.

You will also find that some if the best managed and most disciplined startups have struggled.

This is not always the case. I am thinking of one portfolio company that is very focused and disciplined that is absolutely killing it.

But there is always an exception that proves the rule.

If you want to unleash more creativity in your company, you need to allow for a little contamination. It is the sand in the oyster that creates the pearl.