The African Enterprise (26/07/2021)
The power of a conceptual framework, writing, the creative taste gap, mimetic theory of conflict, and human unification.
Hello my friends,
Greetings from Abuja.
It's Olympics season and games are one I enjoy because of the level of competition across sports. There are sports I wouldn't be caught watching on a normal day but within this stretch of the Olympics, I watch with rapt attention. It's amazing when you think about how much work has been put in over the years to get to this event and compete at this level.
That aside, I have an essay to share with you.
I think of creating (or building) as a subjective process with some parallels in everyone's journey. When we create something, the underlying plan - for all of us - is to create something good; irrespective of whether we're creating for ourselves or consumers.
The question then is: How do you create something good without getting bogged down by the procrastinative desire to make it good?
In this essay, I write about Hollywood's use of backlot and the story behind the development of Apple's Safari as reasons why a Conceptual framework is important to making progress in the earliest stages.
It can be tempting to work an idea to perfection before it’s published, but that often is a stumbling block at the start. Instead, a conceptual framework helps to draw a circle around key parts of an idea, make quick progress with those, then improve with feedback.
I published a conversation with Ridehytch CEO Laolu Onifade last week. Ridehytch is a ridesharing company that uses a real-time deals model to help commuters hitch rides. Car owners offer their cars for people to get the rides. They're an intermediate solution in commuting between inexpensive plus inconvenient public transportation and expensive plus convenient ride-hailing services.
We talk about Ridehytch - their aim to build a more convenient solution than traditional modes of public transportation in Nigeria's population centers yet cheaper than costly ride-hailing services, characterization of the problem, their approach to launch, and strategic approach to expansion.
Coolest things I learned this week
How writing helps
I looked up my notes from an Interesting book that I never quite finished before: How to invent everything by Ryan North.
On writing, it first details some limitations of the spoken word which surely predates the current era of podcasting, audiobooks, and widespread distribution of audio. The limitation was that the spoken word could only travel as far as the speaker. Writing solved that. While that's no longer a problem, the reasons writing helps humanity remain as true today as they were in 3200 BCE. Some of the reasons are:
It allows ideas to become resilient, stronger than our fragile bodies which will inevitably get old and die.
It allows ideas to become fixed, immune to changing memories.
It allows ideas to be broadcast reaching a much larger audience than could ever listen to spoken words.
It allows ideas to survive not only when their original host has died, but even when everyone who has ever spoken their language has died too.
The creative taste gap
Amanda Natividad mentioned the taste gap in a tweet last week and described it - using a visualization - as where the quality of your own creative work doesn't hold up to your standards.
This Alitheia Delivre visual explains the gap in amazing depth.
You start creating because you have good taste. You share the work because you're confident in the quality of your taste. Over time, as you create more, that taste evolves until you no longer feel like some of the work matches your taste. The more you work, the more the taste evolves, and so on.
This has been apparent in my writing the last couple of weeks. When I revisit an old essay, one I was happy and proud to publish some time ago, I immediately feel the need to rewrite it. It never reads right. I imagine if everyone who's read it had as much of a hard time. I immediately want to rewrite it. So I do.
The gap between then and now is a signal that the standard to which I hold my work has increased. It's growth. The more I write, the more I grow.
Mimetic Theory of Conflict
According to this theory, People who are alike are more likely to fight than people who are different.
This also aligns with Jose Saramago's quote that: Probably the greater the difference, the greater the similarity; the greater the similarity, the greater the difference.
This idea is interestingly ironic.
As I think about it, I believe part of what makes difference more similar is how intentional we are to note and acknowledge differences. On the other hand, with someone you're already familiar with, you put more thought into the difference than into the different layers of similarity established over the years.
According to Yuval Noah Harari, the process of human unification has taken two distinct forms:
Establishing links between distinct groups, and
Homogenizing practices across groups.
In essence, where are the lines of similarity? and then what can we weave out of it? How do we stack up all these layers of similarity up to something useful and meaningful?
Links may be formed, he continued, even between groups that continue to behave very differently. In fact, links may form even between sworn enemies.
If you look hard and long enough, you'll see those links.
That’s it for this week.
If you have any thoughts or questions, hit reply and we can have a chat. And if you enjoyed it, share with friends.
Till next week,