One night in 1902, an ambitious young American engineer named Willis Carrier was waiting for a train, watching fog roll in across the platform, when he had a sudden flash of insight: he could exploit the principle of fog to cool buildings. He patented the idea, protected it fiercely, put his new invention into production, and made a fortune. In 2007, the still-surviving Carrier Corporation generated sales worth $15 billion.This is how we think of great inventions - the "Eureka!" moment. But Steven Johnson argues, in an interview in The Guardian, that good ideas are more often the product of a long process, and that the breakthrough is simply the next logical step in a long progression, and that's why so many great inventions are "invented" by different people in different places at the same time.
Even more great insights are in the article here
Johnson's new book is Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation.