Johnson references a great scene from Apollo 13 to illustrate a point about the Adjacent Possible. If you’re an engineer or a tinkerer, you probably love this scene too.
The mission control group is trying to help the astronauts solve a problem. They essentially have to fit a round peg into a square hole in order to continue having breathable air on the spaceship. Preparing to trouble-shoot this issue on the ground, someone in mission control dumps all the spare parts available on the spaceship on a table and says something like “We have to find a way to fit this into this using only this.” Spoiler alert: they figure it out and Tom Hanks comes home safe and sound.
Think of this scene when you think of the Adjacent Possible. That table full of shit is the adjacent possible for the astronauts.
This leads to the final and most important point about the Adjacent Possible:
“…innovative environments are better at helping their inhabitants explore the adjacent possible, because they expose a wide and diverse sample of spare parts – mechanical or conceptual – and they encourage novel ways of recombining those parts.”
This is a HUGE concept in promoting innovation, and is probably one of the key ideas in the book. Lay all the spare parts on the table and give everyone an opportunity to use them. Don’t put up barriers. Get teams working together. Cross-pollinate. Let ideas mix it up with other ideas.