Prior Quotes of the Week

July 6, 1997

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Emergence and Growth of Value Webs

". . . an autocatalytic set can bootstrap its own evolution in precisely the same way that an economy can, by growing more and more complex over time. . . If innovations result from new combinations of old technologies, then the number of possible innovations would go up very rapidly as more and more technologies became available. In fact, he [Kauffman] argued, once you get beyond a certain threshold of complexity you can expect a kind of phase transition analogous to the ones he had found in his autocatalytic sets. Below that level of complexity you would find countries dependent upon just a few major industries, and their economies would tend to be fragile and stagnant. In that case, it wouldn't matter how much investment got poured into the country. 'If all you do is produce bananas, nothing will happen except that you produce more bananas.' But if a country ever managed to diversify and increase its complexity above the critical point, then you would expect it to undergo an explosive increase in growth and innovation--what some economists have called an 'economic takeoff.'

"The existence of that phase transition would also help explain why trade is so important to prosperity. . . Suppose you have two different countries, each one of which is subcritical by itself. Their economies are going nowhere. But now suppose they start trading, so that their economies become interlinked into one large economy with a higher complexity.

"Finally, an autocatalytic set can undergo exactly the same kinds of evolutionary booms and crashes that an economy does. Injecting one new kind of molecule into the soup could often transform the set utterly in much the same way that the economy was transformed when the horse was replaced by the automobile. . . upheaval and change and enormous consequences flowing from trivial-seeming events--and yet with deep law hidden beneath."

M. Mitchell Waldrop
Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order and Chaos
pp. 126, Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, 1992



The Perfect Moment

"We've all had those perfect moments, when things come together in an almost unbelievable way, when events that could never be predicted, let alone controlled, remarkably seem to guide us along our path. The closest I've come to finding a word for what happens in these moments is 'synchronicity.' . . .

"My quest to understand synchronicity arose out of a series of events in my life that led me into a process of inner transformation. As a result of this transformation I decided to follow a dream that I had held close to my heart for a number of years. It was the most difficult decision I had ever made, but the day I made it, I crossed a threshold. From that moment on, what happened to me had the most mysterious quality about it. Things began falling into place almost effortlessly, and I began to discover remarkable people who were to provide crucial assistance to me. This lasted for over a year. Then I lost the flow and almost destroyed the dream I had worked so hard to establish. Ultimately I regained the capacity to participate in what I later came to understand as an unfolding creative order."

Joseph Jaworski
Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership
pp. ix, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc., 1996



The Overthrow of Matter

"This suggests a situation completely analogous to that faced by gamblers in the seventeenth century, who sought a rational way to divide the stakes in a game of dice when the game had to be terminated prematurely (probably by the appearance of the police or, perhaps, the gamblers' wives). The description and analysis of that very definite real-world problem led Fermat and Pascal to the creation of a mathematical formalism we now call probability theory. At present, complex-system theory still awaits its Pascal and Fermat. The mathematical concepts and methods currently available were developed, by and large, to describe systems composed of material objects like planets and atoms. But as philosopher George Gilder has noted, 'The central event of the twentieth century is the overthrow of matter. In technology, economics, and the politics of nations, wealth in the form of physical resources is steadily declining in value and significance. The powers of mind are everywhere ascendant over the brute force of things.' It is the development of a proper theory of complex systems that will be the capstone to this transition from the material to the informational."

John L. Casti
Would-be Worlds: How Simulation is Changing the Frontiers of Science
pp. 214-215, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997



Creating Together

"Although I do many of my projects alone, some involve other people. I love both types of projects, although I have become pretty selective after years of working with other people. I do not enjoy working with people who do not know how to create; I love working with those who do. I especially love those moments when everyone eggs everyone else on to new heights. For this reason, the creative process is often at its most efficient when working with groups. . .

". . .there are those people who have the potential for working well together, but who do not know how to fulfill it. Usually this is because they do not know how to create, and so they are left with a combination of reactive and responsive behavior. Many of the groups with whom I have consulted began in disarray. They thought they had personality conflicts, but as it turned out, they did not. They simply were not creating what they wanted to create because they didn't have a clue how to go about it. . .

"Most work groups do not have the first step of the creative process in place, let alone any of the others. If you ask any work group to name the results they are after, they often fail to do so. Many groups laugh when I ask the question What do you want to create? 'This is so simple, why are we spending time on this?' a few of them say and others think. When they finally attempt to identify the results they want, they often discover they are not on the same wavelength after all. Often they begin to disagree with each other about the results. They had assumed that everyone was working toward the same ends, only to find that each person had a different idea in mind. Only once they clearly establish the end results they want can they begin to organize their actions, energies, and evaluations accordingly."

Robert Fritz
creating: a guide to the creative process
pp. 224-246, Fawcett Columbine, 1991



New Rules of Growth and Economics on the Web

"This growth profile [business on the Internet growing from $50 million to $15 billion in 5 years] has fostered a mind-warping mentality and behavior for Internet companies; tossing aside just about every experience-honed tenet of business to build businesses in a methodical fashion, Internet businesses have adopted a grow-at-any-cost, without-any-revenue, claim-as-much-market- real-estate-before-anyone-moves-in approach to business. This mentality has come to be known as "Get Big Fast." Behind it lie two key strategic points: The first is that Internet opportunities--whether in software or in banking--are new and unclaimed, and hence available for the taking. Secondly, these opportunities will ultimately deliver big rewards to whoever gets claim to them. Hence, Internet company after Internet company is wisely going for it, spending lots of bucks far, far in advance of revenues to both develop offerings and claim market real estate in order to claim stakes in the Internet gold rush that will--hopefully--reward them with unprecedented returns. This is the hyper-growth, hyper-speed, hyper-bucks business world of the Internet."

Robert H. Reid
Architects of the Web:
1,000 Days that Built the Future of Business

pp. xxxvii, John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 1997



The Inevitability of Disaster and the Pursuit of Possibility

"Finally, some very practical advice on preparing to cross the delta, an annual ritual of renewal that we have been doing for a number of years . Try to remember the date of the first day you ever had an adult job, mark it on your calendar, and every year on that date, write down the five things that made a difference in the success of your enterprise or career in the year just past, the five things that will make a difference in the year ahead, and the five things that you expect to make a difference in the year after that. And from that exercise, define the things that you have to change immediately--the things you have to renew or alter at a personal and corporate level--and the things that you have to be preparing to change in the near future.

"Why? Because if you don't continually renew your vision of what the world is and how you can manage your way through it, if you don't continually renew the vision of what your company exists for, who its competitors are, how it makes what it does, how it communicates with its people and the world at large, you will only become more and more efficient at doing the wrong thing. Change will overwhelm you, and disaster will follow as sure as night follows day.

"A last irony of the Chaos Age: It is only by concentrating on the inevitability of disaster that you can free yourself to pursue the fruits of possibility."

Jim Taylor and Watts Wacker with Howard Means
The 500 Year Delta: What Happens After What Comes Next
pp. 243-244, Harper Business, 1997



Iterating the Creative Process Beyond the Edge of Comfort

"If I ever feel I am
getting to the point
where I'm playing
it safe, I'll stop.
That's all I can tell
you about how I
plan for the future

"Yesterday, when I wrote to you about my methods of composing, I did not sufficiently enter into that phase of work which relates to the working out of the sketch. This phase is of primary importance. What has been set down in a moment of ardour must now be critically examined, improved, extended, or condensed, as the form requires. Sometimes one must do oneself violence, must sternly and pitilessly take part against oneself, before one can mercilessly erase things thought out with love and enthusiasm. I cannot complain of poverty of imagination, or lack of inventive power; but, on the other hand, I have always suffered from my want of skill in the management of form. Only after strenuous labour have I at last succeeded in making the form of my compositions correspond, more or less, with their contents. Formerly I was careless and did not give sufficient attention to the critical overhauling of my sketches. Consequently my seams showed, and there was no organic union between my individual episodes. This was a very serious defect, and I only improved gradually as time went on; but the form of my works will never be exemplary because, although I can modify, I cannot radically alter the essential qualities of my musical temperament. But I am far from believing that my gifts have yet reached their ultimate development. I can affirm with joy that I make continual progress on the way of self-development, and am passionately desirous of attaining the highest degree of perfection of which my talents are capable. Therefore I expressed myself badly when I told you yesterday that I transcribed my works direct from the first sketches. The process is something more than copying; it is actually a critical examination, leading to correction, occasional additions and frequent curtailments."

Frank Barron, Alfonso Montuori, Anthea Barron, ed.
Creators on Creating:
Awakening and Cultivating the Imaginative Mind

pp. 56, 182-183, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1997



Mass Customization and Learning Organizations

"When a customizing firm uses the right design interface and remembers its customers' individual specifications and interactions, a truly powerful relationship can be developed with individual customers. This is made possible because an enterprise takes an integrative approach to competition, one customer at a time--linking the individual customer's interactions with previous knowledge of that customer, and then using this learning to drive the company's actual production process. . .

"Customization occurs when an individually tailored product is delivered to a customer. Mass customization occurs when the process of customizing products is engineered into a routine. . .

"In order to become a mass customizer, a business must modularize its processes, so that it is not so much engaged in producing an end product or service as it is in producing elements of the product or service that can then be assembled in different combinations, based on what individual customers request. . .

"Another key to developing a mass customizing firm is to form an organization that learns from each new customization initiative. The mass customizing organization must be capable of routinizing the act of customization by remembering the steps that had to be taken for each new, previously not encountered request. "

Don Peppers and Martha Rogers, Ph.D.
Enterprise One To One:
Tools For Competing in the Interactive Age

pp. 142-144, Currency Doubleday, 1997



Implementing Navigation Centers and Sawing Wood

"Back in the warmth of the barn, Joe and I each took custody of a post, marking it for length (remembering to subtract 1" for the pressure-treated wood shoe it would stand on) and then penciling on its face a 3"-by-7" rectangle where the notch (for our four-by-eight beam) would go. I was eager to start in on my mortise, but Joe had a lesson for the day he wanted to make sure I took to heart: 'Measure twice, cut once.' Simple as it is, this is one of the carpenter's most important axioms, aimed at averting mistakes and the waste of wood. It proved to be one I had a hard time honoring, however, probably because I was so accustomed to working in a medium in which the reworking of material is not only possible, but desirable. 'Undo Typing' is actually one of the commands in my word-processing program, part of a whole raft of options designed expressly to accommodate a writer's haste, sloppiness, or second thoughts. There being no 'Undo Sawing' command, the carpenter who makes a mistake is apt to call, in jest, for the 'wood stretcher'--a tool that of course doesn't exist. The irreversibility of an action taken in wood is how the carpenter comes by his patience and deliberation, his habit of pausing to mentally walk through all the consequences of any action--to consider fully the implications for, say, the trimming of a door jamb next month of a cut made in a rafter today. These were alien habits of mind, but ones I'd resolved to learn. So I followed Joe out the door, trudging back into the snow to double-check our measurements."

Michael Pollan
A Place of My Own:
The Education of an Amateur Builder

pp. 140, Random House, 1997



Living at the Edge and Either/Or Thinking

". . . the quantum model of society suggests that we, too, have the capacity to be and to relate in both a determinate (external) and indeterminate (internal) way. When we harbor fixed attitudes, allow ourselves to be or cast others in rigid roles or stereotypes, when we have fixed expectations, live our lives as a set of well-worn habits, follow routines or adhere to rigid bureaucratic rules, we are living out of our determinacy. We restrict ourselves to the level of here and now and actuality. This is sometimes necessary, perhaps even desirable. . . but it is not creative. It fixes us and our relationships in place. If it becomes the rule, it exposes us to the risk of growing stale or bored. It denies us the opportunity to explore ourselves and to become creative members of an emergent group, family, or community.

"By contrast, when we live 'at the edge' (quantum self-organizing systems, we recall, are poised at the edge between order and chaos), when we accept the risk of our freedom and allow ourselves to be open to new experience, open in our attitudes, open to the many possibilities within ourselves and others, ready to reinvent ourselves, our relationships, and our families, we live out of our indeterminacy. We live at the level of our potentiality and remain fresh like children. Metaphorically, we live at the level of poetry rather than prose. Ambiguity and ambiguous (multifaceted, multilayered, suggestive) communication are our friends, not our enemies. We stand poised toward internal relationship, community, and an emerging consensus."

Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall
The Quantum Society: Mind, Physics, and a New Social Vision
pp. 327-328, William Morrow and Company, 1994



The Missing Discipline in Architecture

"When we look at the most beautiful towns and cities of the past, we are always impressed by a feeling that they are somehow organic.

"This feeling of 'organicness,' is not a vague feeling of relationship with biological forms. It is not an analogy. It is instead, an accurate vision of a specific structural quality which these old towns had . . . and have. Namely: Each of these towns grew as a whole, under its own laws of wholeness . . . and we can feel this wholeness, not only at the largest scale, but in every detail: in the restaurants, in the sidewalks, in the houses, shops, markets, roads, parks, gardens and walls. Even in the balconies and ornaments.

"This quality does not exist in towns being built today. And indeed, this quality could not exist, at present, because there isn't any discipline which actively sets out to create it. Neither architecture, nor urban design, nor city planning take the creation of this kind of wholeness as their task. So of course it doesn't exist. It does not exist, because it is not being attempted.

"There is no discipline which could create it, because there isn't, really, any discipline which has yet tried to do it."

Christopher Alexander, Hajo Neis, Artemis Anninou, Ingrid King
A New Theory of Urban Design
pp. 2-3, Oxford University Press, 1987




"Let's face it, most of us have the suspicion there is much more to life than what we have been led to expect. Our lives are filled with secret possibilities--possibilities that there are dimensions to ourselves, depths of our being, and heights to our aspirations that are lurking just below the surface. Despite years of attempts by relatives, friends, acquaintances, and society to bring us to our senses, the desire and impulse to reach for that which is highest in us is still there. After all the appeals to reason, we still have the very human urge to do something that matters to us. Despite all the times that society has endeavored to kill that instinct in us, it just won't die. . . .

"On one level, creating is a skill that can be learned and mastered. People from all walks of life, and from all backgrounds, can learn to create, in the same way that they can learn to drive a car, swim, or use a computer. As a skill, creating can be effective in many realms.

"When the skill of creating is used in music or painting, the results are often art.

"When the skill of creating is used in technology, the results are often invention.

"When creating is used in business, the results are often production.

"When creating is used to build a relationship between two people, the results are often deep bonding and a natural expression of love.

"When creating is used to build your life, the results are often tremendous involvement, vitality, adventure, and expansion."

Robert Fritz
creating: a guide to the creative process
pp. 3, 7, Fawcett Columbine, 1991



The Aspects of Vision

"As we enter the twenty-first century, the era of global consciousness is upon us. We have come to recognize that we are drifting through space on a circular life raft. Our vision of the world and of our place on it have changed dramatically in the last several decades. This change in vision portends a similarly dramatic change in the reality of life on this planet, provided, of course, that we can integrate it in time. A vision that recognizes our place within the universe and the interdependence of all life on earth is coming to supplant the independent "man against nature" view, which has dominated Western thinking for at least the last three hundred years, and by now, has been exported to every corner of the globe.

"In the discussion that follows, we consider: vision as world view, that is, as a way of seeing; vision as a process of perception; and vision as an imaginative, or creative process. Your vision for the future is expressed in the way you see the world today. This applies to both your world view and your ability to accurately perceive what is going on in it. Vision as an imaginative process means simply this: everything that has ever been created began as an idea--we create what we imagine."

Laurence G. Boldt
Zen and the Art of Making a Living:
A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design

pp. 112, Penguin Arkana 1992


Other Prior Quotes:

January 5, 1997 - March 30, 1997

copyright 1997, MG Taylor Corporation. All rights reserved
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iteration 3.5