The Tangled Bank

I finished Where Good Ideas Come From by Stephen Johnson a couple of weeks ago. I really enjoyed this bit from the final chapter:

Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down, but keep you folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle, reinvent. Build a tangled bank.

The tangled bank is a reference from Origin of Species where Darwin remarks on the diversity of systems in nature and how they thrive given the right circumstances.

Right now it’s my job to think in systems and create abstractions like reusable UI components. Creating systems and standards seem to be at odds with embracing serendipity and novel solutions. If you take the long view, most of the stuff we consider to be a best practice probably started out as novel solution in the past. What if there is no room for improvisation and novel solutions in the systems we are creating? Will they thrive?

I am a designer and I enjoy creating consistency and order, but lately I feel like it’s important to be building more tangled banks.

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