Explore Modularity of Your Ideas

Most of the ideas cannot be effectively shared straight away. It takes time and brain processing before the first contact with other brains is made. Even the simplest one sentence ideas get filtered (subconsciously). It doesn’t get easier when we think about multi-dimensional and multi-layered concepts. How to transfer complex ideas effectively?

Our thoughts and ideas do seem complex, but there are hidden regularities waiting to be discovered if we pay enough attention. Therefore, the stream of consciousness is less continuous and more inherently modular so that each module/component could be processed, considered and communicated. This approach is used extensively by engineers to break down and build complex systems. In other words, we can view our ideas as systems that need to be systematically broken down, studied and reengineered back.

Here is a metaphor:
Raw unfiltered ideas: books randomly spread on the table.
Broken down and reengineered ideas: books sorted and placed in the shelf subject-wise.
It’s very easy to navigate and show books off the shelf than off the messy table. Compound knowledge does not change, efficiency DOES!!

Let’s take a sufficiently complex idea in software/tech/culture. For instance the idea of “companies collecting data to build product and culture”. There are lots of moving parts to this though and numerous questions to be answered. You are in a room with people— each interested in one or two aspect of that proposal. Product Lead is interested about the time it will take and the ROI, engineering lead looks at the details of implementation and feasibility, CFO looks from the resources/finance perspective etc. There are lots of “chicken and egg” conditions: the person X would agree if the person Y agrees to the proposal. Ideas like these are full of hidden “chicken and egg” problems. One set of people are convinced based on another set of people and vice versa.

Breaking down the ideas leads us to idea-components — each component can be presented as a short story. Each story is a ruthlessly focused single self-sufficient mini-idea that could be considered alone or as part of the wider narrative (aka the complex idea). For instance, this short story that you are reading now is about breaking down ideas into idea-story-pieces (very focused point!). However this is part of a series of stories about ML/AI/Data/Infrastructure/Culture/Products that together paint the picture for present and the future.

Short stories are the ancient (and sustainable) technology of transferring ideas. Fables, Myths, Legends — simple but powerful. I speculate that the simpler the idea, the shorter the story, the easier and faster to transfer the mini-idea from brain to brain. Short viral videos proved to be successful marketing mechanisms. Naval mini-podcasts are a huge inspiration for short the short story format. Human attention and time are too precious to be spent abundantly.

The process of deriving mini-ideas requires exceptional discipline and dedication to purify, simplify a point to its minimum sufficiency and presentation. Any vague, unnecessary complex component goes out the window. Iterating over and over again until that one self-sufficient piece is left. Hopefully if one does this exercise for long enough time, it will adapt the thinking process and mind to come up with ideas modular out of the box. Hopefully to decrease time it takes to “learn your ideas better”.

Talking about complex ideas in simple terms is difficult. Sequence of short story blocks which convey self-sufficient, minimal, simple and single-minded points can form layers and layers of complexity for ideas. Most of product building and engineering is advanced social affairs using the language of words and code. Therefore the pace and quality of building things highly depends on the effectiveness of idea transfer in both of those languages.

It is more effective to show your books when they are organised in a bookshelf. Image credits

Thanks to Mane Gevorgyan and Lusine Margaryan for reading drafts of this.

Aim co-creator. Co-founder and CEO AimHub. Prior Altocloud (acqu. Genesys). Runner, Swimmer.

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