Book note on Originals

In Originals, Adam Grant talks about creating many ideas to get to the good ideas1:

“Original thinkers,” Stanford professor Robert Sutton notes, “will come up with many ideas that are strange mutations, dead ends, and utter failures. The cost is worthwhile because they also generate a larger pool of ideas—especially novel ideas.”

It reminded me of the story of the pottery class being graded either on 1.) quantity of completed pieces or 2.) quality of a single final piece. I don’t know where I originally read it. It might have been from Jason Kottke or Derek Sivers.

My best guess, though is that I read it on Coding Horror. Jeff Atwood blogged about the story from the book Art & Fear. Digging into his other posts, he gives some advice on blogging consistently:

My schedule was six posts per week, and I kept jabbing, kept shipping, kept firing. Not every post was that great, but I invested a reasonable effort in each one. Every time I wrote, I got a little better at writing.

As for subjects, Jeff tried to avoid blogging about blogging:

I’ve avoided the incestuous nature of blogging about blogging until now […]

I haven’t!

Thinking of it as a single quantity/quality scale doesn’t quite work. I can’t arbitrarily move to the quality end—I’m not a good enough writer. More time spent on the quantity side lets me slowly get further on the quality side.

There’s a better metaphor, but feel free to read this bad one. Let’s say you arrive at a canyon. One side is quantity and the other is quality. At first you spend most of your time in the quantity end to gather materials. Once in a while, you’ll build part of the bridge out toward quality. And you can get further and further out to the quality side, but it still requires quantity. As the bridge goes out, you can then pick and choose exactly where you want to spend your time.

I’ll continue chopping trees down on this side of the canyon.

  1. This excerpt is pretty much a quote from someone else.