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Are You Disorganized? Research Says That’s a Good Thing

May 11, 2015
Ideas
Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

In Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation, Steven Johnson posits that “the more disorganized your brain is, the smarter you are” in reference to the results of a neuroscience experiment by Robert Thatcher.

Across the board, in Johnson’s book and other sources it seems pretty clear that creativity is messy.

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Ideas need to be sloshing around or crashing in to one another to produce breakthroughs:

  • The “accept everything” mantra of brainstorming doesn’t work. Debate is far more effective. Let those ideas fight.

At the end of his book Johnson recommends:

You may not be able to turn your government into a coral reef, but you can create comparable environments on the scale of everyday life: in the workplaces you inhabit; in the way you consume media; in the way you augment your memory. The patterns are simple, but followed together, they make for a whole that is wiser than the sum of its parts. Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down, but keep your 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.

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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