At the conference table

The most striking discovery in Dunbar’s study turned out to be the physical location where most of the important breakthroughs occurred. With a science like molecular biology, we inevitably have an image in our heads of the scientist alone in the lab, hunched over a microscope, and stumbling across a major new finding. But Dunbar’s study showed that those isolated eureka moments were rarities. Instead, most important ideas emerged during regular lab meetings, where a dozen or so researchers would gather and informally present and discuss their latest work. If you looked at the map of idea formation that Dunbar created, the ground zero of innovation was not the microscope. It was the conference table.

From “Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation” by Steven Johnson