The Idea Factory – Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation
by Jon Gertner
The definitive history of America’s greatest incubator of innovation and the birthplace of some of the 20th century’s most influential technologies
“Filled with colorful characters and inspiring lessons … The Idea Factory explores one of the most critical issues of our time: What causes innovation?” — Walter Isaacson, The New York Times Book Review
“Compelling … Gertner’s book offers fascinating evidence for those seeking to understand how a society should best invest its research resources.” — The Wall Street Journal
From its beginnings in the 1920s until its demise in the 1980s, Bell Labs – officially, the research and development wing of AT&T – was the biggest, and arguably the best, laboratory for new ideas in the world. From the transistor to the laser, from digital communications to cellular telephony, it’s hard to find an aspect of modern life that hasn’t been touched by Bell Labs. In The Idea Factory, Jon Gertner traces the origins of some of the twentieth century’s most important inventions and delivers a riveting and heretofore untold chapter of American history. At its heart this is a story about the life and work of a small group of brilliant and eccentric men – Mervin Kelly, Bill Shockley, Claude Shannon, John Pierce, and Bill Baker – who spent their careers at Bell Labs. Today, when the drive to invent has become a mantra, Bell Labs offers us a way to enrich our understanding of the challenges and solutions to technological innovation. Here, after all, was where the foundational ideas on the management of innovation were born.
You are invited to discuss this book at the virtual meeting of the Book Club on Wednesday, May 24, from 12:30 to 2:30PM.
This is a private, alumni-only, off-the-record discussion. The views and opinions expressed in this program are those of the speakers and participants and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of The Harvard Business School Club.
Participants must register by Noon on May 23rd to receive details on joining the discussion. The Zoom link will be sent out 24 hours before the event.