Structure Territory

January 16 2021

I want to create a side-thread here, I do not necessarily want to derail any main thread, and yet these ideas keep cropping up for me.

I am going back through Seth Godin’s The Practice, and that is all about creative process, so this probably re-stimulates my thinking.

Which ways of working are generative to you of great results? Which ways of working are a slog? Paying attention less to the linearity of the process (example: we must construct a lead magnet now…) and paying more attention to which processes tend to be generative of results.

It does not intend to say I’m not going to complete my tasks—structure keeps us on track. But it gets me thinking…

When I work for R of the pool company, I get super nerdy and work and work, and this is an engine that generates new ideas, new results. I do not have to think about it, for the work to come out of me.

The analogy is tapping into the inherent energy of a stream, by putting a paddle wheel into it.

Working in abstract, I have to do constant extrapolation—“what will our prototypical prospect want to hear now… ?” Something big happens for me when there is an actual person to help. I change. It kicks in something good in me.

But then, the other thing that kicks in something good in me, is just sharing with K and/or A, my ideas. But again, this is someone there, in front of me… thus the podcast was born, and I believe however imperfectly formed at this point, this stuff would be valuable to other people, in new ways.

There is something about working for a simulated person that feels so different from working for a real person, or a real group of people.

Once again, the theme returns to me: “Use structure as a guide, but do not let it become your God. Do not mistake the map for the territory, and forget that the structure was intended to direct your energy in helpful directions, but when it gets in the way of the energy—take a second look at it.”

Ask: “Where is the energy?” …

This is the same consideration we gave when we started thinking about not requiring emails to give so-called “lead magnet” type things to people. And this is the same consideration when we began to think of our website more as an information play-space, like a Discovery Museum, with different levels and things to explore, but without predicting (or needing to know) exactly which pathway someone would take through it. Yes, you design things for people at different points in their journey, and try to set them out so that they will discover them when they are likely to need them; but you do not worry so much about the specific flows through the structure, anymore than you’d worry about which specific flow a body of water will take through a stream.

(This gets into chaos theory, the mathematics of cloud patterns, and so on—you don’t worry about that—you just set up a system that will be likely to interact with those forces in ways that you will enjoy…)

(This is the same idea behind pattern languages—an emergence of systems thinking and looking at nature, that causes you to become more interested in an idea of generative patterns, and less interested in forced, linear structures.)

The meta-idea here is that generative patterns are an interesting counterpoint to hyper-linear planning. I believe that the move from waterfall planning into Agile (etc.) is a movement towards a more natural way of working, by the way—literally, one that more mimics nature. And, that “seeing what gives you life” can be just as helpful as “what am I supposed to be doing right now”? —You just haveta harness it towards something

And here is where I had another insight about myself —this one has real money implications.

I will work to serve an individual, when those creative juices are turned on, and start to create something new and great. I will do it whether they are paying me $0, $500, or $100,000… The same energy process is going on in me, whoever the audience. (And I have spent countless hours generating ideas for people without giving them away, or telling anyone, and got paid nothing, of course…)

Turn on the flow of water, and what size of paddlewheel can you put underneath it?1

—I am doing it for R, and he is paying me a whopping $2,400.

Put me in situations where I am creating something for 100 people, and ask them to pay $100. Then run that same thing 5 more times, and I have made $60,000. We all know the economics of information products, but there you are. Same internal engine running, different context, 25x return, in this particular example.

Of course—the other solution is to get someone with a 25x budget to pay me (us) to solve their one problem.

  1. I could find a better analogy, because this actually diminishes the energy flow of the water, whereas I am not sure if I’m talking about anything getting diminished here, in actuality. ↩︎

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