Quantity Creates Quality

Remove the filter to get to the good


Mar 15, 2023

1 min read

One of the biggest surprises for new students at the d.school—whether they are head of a major company or were head of their high school class—is the idea that quantity creates quality. -Jeremy Utley

My 9yo daughter got really frustrated recently when her drawing was not working out the way she wanted it to. I often tell her in these times that "practice makes perfect" but as an optimistic, clear-eyed youth she does not yet understand the idea of mastery. Very few great ideas just come right out of the gate.

Reading the book Ideaflow, I saw a similar theme repeated: quantity creates quality. It's one of the most important things they teach new design students at Stanford. In fact, the whole idea behind "ideaflow" is that it is a measure of the potential quanity of novel ideas in a given period.

Honestly, the pressure to create something great on the first try is one of the first darlings that has to die if we're to ever even begin the journey.

Rob Bell talks about Edit and Flow - in the beginning, you have to learn to separate these two distinct phases. Flow is just getting it all out on the page, no judgement, no critique. Edit is standing at a distance and bringing out the liquid paper. Again though, the challenge is suspending Edit until you've given yourself ample time for Flow.

ideas / time = ideaflow

One of my favorite metaphors related to the concept of ideaflow is "clearing the muddy pipes". Julian Shapiro calls this The Creativity Faucet:

So what do I do with this information? I just keep doing the thing. The goal becomes the process, not the result. Writing a blog post everyday means I'll have a lot of crappy blog posts, but there is also the potential for a great one every once in a while and eventually the quality of even the bad ones will be better than the first few posts I write.

© 2024 Ross Gebhart