Managing complexity: drafting and organizing

Words into sentences into paragraphs into essays into books. People into departments into companies. Cells into organs into organisms. Files into folders. Species into classes into families. Threads into fabric into clothing. Products into inventory. Goods into containers.

Organizing is fundamental to the creative process but not usually given equal weight.

Why is it so important?

Context and interface: The structure creates an abstraction that can then be used for higher level ideas.

An example: take an “org structure”. It allows you to say “this person owns marketing,” now, how does marketing fit into the rest of the company, instead of thinking of each individual person every time.

Another example, shipping containers. Before containers, goods were transported loosely. Which meant that for buyers and sellers and dock workers and transport managers, they needed to think of every individual good to reason about the manipulation, trade, and movement of those goods. But let’s say we said this container has tee shirts and this one has toys - we can now think about the shirt container and the toy container as fungible, portable pieces. There can be a toy container manager. Toy containers go to toy buyers, and are sold by toy sellers. To understand the cost of shipping, we can think simply of the cost of moving a container and not have to wrestle with the particulars of its contents.

Organizing, or grouping, isn’t just human - it’s part of nature. Cells into organs, organs into organisms, organisms into communities, communities into societies.

We’re describing fractal patterns - a way to compound simple things into infinite complexity. Infinite complexity for infinite growth, expansion, and nuance. To grow that complexity, you need structure, otherwise the mass becomes unintelligible - interestingly, not just for humans, but for nature at large.

Maybe organizing is even more important than drafting. For example: a company is a collection of humans organized in a specific way. Those humans could exist outside of that company, but the sum of those humans wouldn’t be able to do what the company does.


Computers, interestingly, disintermediate the linear flow of crafting and organizing. Before computers, you started with a construct, say, a notebook, and then you’d fill it with notes. Or you started with notes, and then assembled them into a notebook (hard!). With computers, you can make a note, add it to a notebook, then make some more notes and add them to a different notebook, go back and change them and reorganize them - whatever you want. So both the content and the organization are fluid, allowing for both the thing and the organization of the thing to evolve hand in hand. This results in an entirely new creation.

Computers also allow for different kinds of organizational structures. A thing can something else’s parent - a traditional hierarchical relationship (which I’ve been mostly exploring here) but with computers you could have other relationships, like links (technically possible with citations in the real world, but hugely unwieldy, because the referenced item is rarely at arms length).

I started thinking about this as I was organizing my Notes app into folders. As I created folders for Universe, meditations, and todo lists, I started to have ideas for new ideas within each of those buckets, and the Notes app started to feel so much more expansive and useful.

Then I realized that so much of what I do is actually in the organization of things: structuring a company, designing a creation tool, thinking about inventory management systems, even mundane things like organizing my email. I’m constantly bucketing. This is mostly instinct, but as I think about it, it makes sense if you want to manage increased complexity.