Fractal Technology and Entrepreneurial Manic-Depression
I just stumbled across this article over at Tim Ferriss’s blog, and I love it: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2008/10/03/harnessing-entrepreneurial-manic-depression-making-the-rollercoaster-work-for-you/
It’s an older article, so there’s a chance you may have seen it already. However, I would encourage anyone reading this blog to read that article.
At the very least, I think the lead chart graphic should resonate well.
It’s also very much related to the post on procrastination I posted here a couple months back:
I tried to leave a comment explaining the connection on Tim’s blog, but the comment form didn’t seem to work properly.
Here’s the gist of what I was going to say:
I think the roller coaster is partly influenced by individual personality, but largely happens largely due to the fractal nature of our projects.
As Brian Arthur points out in “The Nature of Technology” (one of the best books on the subject IMHO), we build things (like businesses, and technologies) by combining parts with other parts.
At the beginning of our project, the parts seem to fit well in the abstract, and we are free to dream about the potential for our eventual creation.
Then we start to get into the details, and we see that one part of our project has a point of conflict with another part. And a sub-sub-sub-part has a point of conflict with a sub-sub-sub-sub part. And so on.
That’s when we start to realize our project is not as easy and straightforward as we thought, and we enter a phase of “informed pessimism”.
As we work on the details, they multiply with fractal tentacles often several nodes deep, each node another point of potential conflict with any of the other nodes.
And this eventually leads to one of 3 conditions: A) we get overwhelmed and can’t see a clear way through, B) we get to the bottom and realize our project isn’t feasible, or C) we get to the bottom and see that it will work after all.
If it’s A or B, we “crash and burn”. If it’s C, we start working our plan with “cautious optimism”, and we really know what we’re doing at this point.
Procrastination and depression both tend to hit us hardest on the down slope of the roller coaster depicted in the chart — that’s the region of least clarity, and the greatest density of set-backs.
Tim also has some recommendations for what to do (and what not to do) during each phase of a project.