My new favorite idea: the “adjacent possible” from Steven Johnson's “Where Good Ideas Come From”.
It’s the idea that most innovation, from amazing evolutionary traits to genius inventions, comes through repeated exploration of nearby possibilities. If you were on a deserted island with nothing but trees and rocks, a stone axe would be in your adjacent possible. A modern bungalow would not (but might eventually).
Every step taken paves the way for new possibilities that were simply impractical before.
I’m actually a bit obsessed with this idea, and now I’m seeing it everywhere.
“Luck surface area” is a phrase I come across a lot on LinkedIn. That’s just increasing your adjacent possible by creating more situations where serendipity can strike.
When we’re stuck, common advice is to take a walk or a nap. That’s exploring the adjacent possible in our own head by letting thoughts bounce off each other.
When we make long-range predictions, we’re musing about where chains of adjacent possibilities might take us.
Baby steps are mostly how we got here. And baby steps are mostly what lie between us and the future.
Keep your eyes open, because things that weren't possible 5 years ago are possible now.