Last Updated Sep 29, 2010 7:35 AM EDT
Author Steven Johnson decided to tackle the question with five years of research. The result is his upcoming book Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, which is out on October 5th. To lure you to the book store to buy it and provide a preview of his conclusions, Johnson has released a fabulously put together four-minute video that's doing the rounds of the internet (HT to Kottke). It's worth watching both for its ideas about the source of inspiration (don't hope for instant salvation if you're desperately in need of a "Eureka!" moment this afternoon) and as an example of a promotional effort that's gone viral (without resorting to puppies).