Quotes


 
We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.
— Anaïs Nin
There is no truth. There is only perception.
— Gustave Flaubert
Change your thoughts and you change your world.
— Norman Vincent Peale
A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.
— Steve Jobs
It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.
— Henry David Thoreau
Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.
— Henry David Thoreau
We must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us.
— Virginia Satir
Rapid population growth and technological innovation, combined with our lack of understanding about how the natural systems of which we are a part, have created a mess.
— David Suzuki
What you end up seeing when you look at history is that people who have been good at pushing the boundaries of possibility, and exploring those frontiers of good ideas and innovations, have rarely done it in moments of great inspiration. They don’t just have a brilliant breakthrough idea out of nowhere and leap ahead of everyone else.
— Steven Johnson
Ideas control the world.
— James A. Garfield
The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody had decided not to see.
— Ayn Rand
When we objectively view the recent past—and two hundred years is recent even in terms of human evolution and certainly in terms of biological evolution—one factor becomes clear. The Industrial Revolution as we now know it is not sustainable. We cannot keep using materials and resources the way we do now. But how are we to land softly?
— Braden R. Allenby, AT&T
To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.
— Henri Bergson
It has become evident that the primary lesson of the study of evolution is that all evolution is coevolution: every organism is evolving in tandem with the organisms around it.
— Kevin Kelly
A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
— Margaret Mead
A key characteristic of a genius is a strong disbelief system. Instead of starting from belief, the genius starts from the position of curiosity, wonder, skepticism, or iconoclasm. The journey leads from the unknown to the known, and, with luck and perseverance, you’ll discover new information along the way.
— Marty Neumeier
If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.
— Rene Descartes
Some other faculty than the intellect is necessary for the apprehension of reality.
— Henri Bergson
If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.
— Ken Robinson
The first step toward a great answer is to reframe the question.
— Tom Kelley and David Kelley
We need to ask how fragile nature’s services are, not just how fragile nature is.
— Simon Levin, Complexity and the Commons
I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.
— Albert Einstein
So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.
— Franz Kafka
Stay hungry. Stay foolish.
— Steve Jobs
One of the best ways to accelerate learning is to ask questions. A question that starts with “Why” or “What if” can brush aside superficial details and get to the heart of the matter
— Tom Kelley and David Kelley, Creative Confidence
Always the beautiful answer
Who asks a more beautiful question.
— E.E. Cummings
A problem well put is half solved
— John Dewey
Constraints can spur creativity and incite action, as long as you have the confidence to embrace them.
— Tom Kelley and David Kelley
Belief in your creative capacity lies at the heart innovation.
— Tom Kelley and David Kelley, Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential in Us All
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
— Steve Jobs
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.
— Amelia Earhart
Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.
— Helen Keller
Religions get lost as people do.
— Franz Kafka
Money will always be easier to measure, which is why it takes a little extra effort to value the heart.
— Tom Kelley and David Kelley
Most executives I know are so action-oriented, or action-addicted, that time for reflection is the first casualty of their success.
— Margaret Heffernan
A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.
— Lao Tzu
There is no great genius without a mixture of madness.
— Aristotle
All of the books in the world contain no more information than is broadcast as video in a single large American city in a single year. Not all bits have equal value.
— Carl Sagan
Information helps you to see that you’re not alone. That there’s somebody in Mississippi and somebody in Tokyo who have wept, who’ve all longed and lost, who’ve all been happy. So the library helps you to see, not only that you are not alone, but that you’re not really any different from everyone else.
— Maya Angelou
Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power to that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.
— J.K. Rowling
Originality doesn’t come from factual knowledge, nor does it come from the suppression of factual knowledge to the animating force of imagination. Imagination is the ability to conjure mental images, sensations, or concept without perceiving them through the senses. Everyone is born with this ability, but the genius is a person who cultivates it, applies it, and invests in it. Imagination is a learnable skill.
— Marty Neumeier, The 46 Rules of Genius
A lot of knowledge in any kind of an organization is what we call task knowledge. These are things that people who have been there a long time understand are important, but they may not know how to talk about them. It’s often called the culture of the organization.
— Howard Gardner
Continuity of culture in passage from one civilization to another as well as within the culture, is conditioned by art more than by any other one thing. Troy lives for us only in poetry and in the objects of art that have been recovered from its ruins. Minoan civilization is today its products of art. Pagan gods and pagan rites are past and gone and yet endure in the incense, lights, robes, and holidays of the present.
— John Dewey, Art as Experience
Works of art are means by which we enter, through imagination and emotions they evoke, into other forms of relationship and participation than our own.
— John Dewey, Art as Experience

With the acceleration of the technological and data- processing revolutions, we will witness the deployment or, if you will, the unfolding of animal, vegetable, cosmic, and machinic becomings which are already prefigured by the prodigious expansion of computer-aided subjectivity. Those developments - the formation and remote-controlling of human individuals and groups - will of course also be governed by institutional and social class dimensions. In that context, we will have to play around with psychoanalysis, find ways of evading the phantasmatic traps of psycho- analytical myth, rather than cultivating and maintaining it like an ornamental garden.
— Guattari, Félix and Chris Turner (Translator). “The Three Ecologies.” in: New Formations No. 8, 1989.
“When the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of growth of output and income, as it did in the nineteenth century and seems quite likely to do again in the twenty-first, capitalism automatically generates arbitrary and unsustainable inequalities that radically undermine the meritocratic values on which democratic societies are based.”
— Thomas Piketty
The power of imagination makes us infinite.
— John Muir
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
— Maya Angelou
Beauty, whether moral or natural, is felt, more properly than perceived.
— David Hume
The emotional brain responds to an event more quickly than the thinking brain.
— Daniel Goleman
We become, neurologically, what we think.
— Nicholas Carr
The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.
— Michio Kaku
People don’t fall asleep during conversations, but they often do during presentations—and that’s because many presentations don’t feel conversational.
— Nancy Duarte, HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations
Your big idea is that one key message you must communicate. It’s what compels the audience to change course.
— Nancy Duarte, HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations
Probably the most common complaint that we hear about strategy meetings is lack of follow-up. But how are people supposed to act on something they can barely remember?
— Chris Ertel and LIsa Kay Solomon, Moments of Impact
Each (presentation) slide should pass what I call the glance test: People should be able to comprehend it in three seconds.
— Nancy Duarte
The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.
— Anais Nin
We can learn something new anytime we believe we can.
— Virginia Satir
Assessments of change, dynamics, and cause and effect are at the heart of thinking and explanation. To understand is to know what cause provokes what effect, by what means, at what rate. How then, is such knowledge to be represented?
— Edward R. Tufte, Visual Explanations
Knowledge is a polite word for dead but not buried imagination.
— E.E. Cummings
Nurture the kind of ‘prepared mind’ that seizes the moment when an epiphany occurs.
— Tom Kelley and David Kelley
We do not remember days, we remember moments.
— Cesare Pavese
Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.
— Carl Sagan
If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.
— Steven Johnson
Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.
— Anais Nin
Connect, analyze, sort, and filter the ideas so you use only the ones that will yield the best outcomes. Designers call this part of the process convergent thinking, and they refer to its opposite, idea generation, as divergent thinking.
— Nancy Duarte
Society does not consist of individuals but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand.
— Karl Marx, philosopher
Association with human beings lures one into self-observation.
— Franz Kafka
Ultimately the study of complex systems illuminates the interest in between the usual scientific boundaries. It is the interest between various fields, like biology, economics, physics and computer science. Problems like organization, adaptation, and robustness transcend all of these fields.
— Miller and Page, Complex Adaptive Systems
What are some of the characteristic aspects of complex adaptive systems? Most fundamental is the heterogeneity of the components, which provides the variability on which selection can act. Typically, through nonlinear interactions among those components, they become organized hierarchically into structural arrangements that determine and are reinforced by the flows and interactions among the parts. These four aspects—heterogeneity, nonlinearity, hierarchical organization, and flows—are key elements of complex adaptive systems.
— Simon Levin, Complexity and the Commons
complexity has emerged in the last twenty-eight years is the computer. A computer allows us to look at a system with a large number of variables that interact with one another in highly heterogeneous ways – and the unexpected properties that emerge. That’s complexity. A lot of complexity is about seeing how the whole works and adapts. You couldn’t do that with the differential equations or partial differential equations of the physics of the 19th and 20th centuries. You just couldn’t, at all.
— Stewart Kauffman
There is no unique way to describe an ecosystem, any more than there is a unique way to describe an economy or a nation. Meta-agents are aggregates of agents and of smaller meta-meta-agents. Any system is a mess of overlapping hierarchies of aggregation, limited in any particular description only for the convenience of the observer, For any such simplification of a system’s overwhelming complexity, however, there will be flows among meta-agents, as well as flows within. In ecosystems, flow refers to the flow of nutrients, the flow of water, the flow of toxicants, the flow of energy, the flow of individuals, and the flow of information.
— Simon Levin, Complexity and the Commons
they were demons about cost. They enjoyed finding a bargain and were proud of getting good quality at a low price. They took great satisfaction in not paying extra for fancy packaging or marketing gimmicks. They were committed to keeping the weekly shopping bill as low as possible.
— Gary Klein
The fundamental challenge in understanding the organization of any complex system is to sort out the role of history.
— Simon Levin, Complexity and the Commons
If you want the present to be different from the past, study the past.
— Baruch Spinoza
But if there is a future-oriented aspect to newly rendered maps, heightening our desire to explore the places not yet visited or seen, maps delineated long ago draw our minds to the unvisitable past. Every map records a particular moment as well as a particular location, and so a collection of maps of one city across time can serve as a powerful gateway to its history.
— Alex Krieger, Mapping Boston
Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.
— Corrie Ten Boom
The first stirrings of dissatisfaction and the first intimation of a better future are always found in works of art. The impregnation of the characteristically new art of a period with a sense of different values than those that prevail is the reason why the conservative finds such art to be immoral and sordid, and is the reason why he resorts to the products of the past for esthetic satisfaction. Factual science may collect statistics and make charts. But its predictions are, as has been well said, but past history reversed. Change in the climate of the imagination is the precursor of the changes that affect more than the details of life.
— John Dewey, Art as Experience
If you don’t know where you are going, every road will get you nowhere.
— Henry A. Kissinger
The most remarkable aspect of the transition we are living through is not so much the passage from want to affluence as the passage from labor to leisure. Leisure contains the future, it is the new horizon. The prospect then is one of unremitting labor to bequeath to future generations a chance of founding a society of leisure that will overcome the demands and compulsions of productive labor so that time may be devoted to creative activities or simply to pleasure and happiness.
— Henri Lefebvre
The human brain had a vast memory storage. It made us curious and very creative. Those were the characteristics that gave us an advantage - curiosity, creativity and memory. And that brain did something very special. It invented an idea called ‘the future.’
— David Suzuki
We are at a point where we must educate our children in what no one knew yesterday, and prepare our schools for what no one knows yet.
— Margaret Mead
Few people think about it or are aware of it. But there is nothing made by human beings that does not involve a design decision somewhere.
— Bill Moggridge
Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.
— Steve Jobs
Nature proceeds little by little from things lifeless to animal life in such a way that it is impossible to determine the exact line of demarcation.
— Aristotle, History of Animals
Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.
— Albert Einstein
The whole is more than the sum of its parts.
— Aristotle
Think with your whole body.
— Taisen Deshimaru
Science has explored the microcosms and the macrocosms; we have a good sense of the lay of the land. The great unexplored frontier is complexity.
— Heinz Panels, The Dreams of Reason
Evolution is the basic force governing biotic change over geologic time scales, via natural selection and related mechanisms.
— Simon Levin, Complexity and the Commons
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
— Alvin Toffler
Abstract diagrams not only allow you to create a single whole from them, by fusion, but also have other even more important powers. Because the diagrams are independent of one another, you can study them and improve them one at a time, so that their evolution can be gradual and cumulative. More important still, because they are abstract and independent, you can use them to create not just one design, but an infinite variety of designs, all of them free combinations of of the same set of patterns.
— Christopher Alexander, Notes on the Synthesis of Form
Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.
— Anais Nin
Ecological and evolutionary processes are similar in kind, distinguished primarily by the distinct time and space scales over which they operate. This difference in scales, however, makes it essential to separate ecological and evolutionary events from one another and to study the interplay between them. Ecological interactions take place within an evolutionary context and in turn shape the ongoing evolutionary process.
— Simon Levin, Complexity and the Commons
Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value. It is a process; it’s not random.
— Ken Robinson
The three key criteria of life—pattern, structure, and process—are so closely intertwined that it is difficult to discuss them separately, although it is important to distinguish among them.
— Fritjof Capra, Web Of Life
From Pythagoras to Aristotle, to Goethe and to the organismic biologists, there is a continuous intellectual tradition that struggles with the understanding of pattern, realizing that it is crucial to the understanding of living form.
— Fritjof Capra, The Web Of Life
The main character of any living system is openness.
— Ilya Prigogine
...Global patterns emerge from evolutionary innovations that arise and spread locally. In this view, selection acts most rapidly and most forcefully at small scales, where feedback loops are tight, and much more weakly and slowly at broader scales, where feedbacks are diffuse. This applies especially to the evolution of human behaviors; what often passes for altruistic or group-oriented actions can generally be traced to hidden benefits that reward the altruist, or its genes, on fairly short time scales. Therein lies a lesson for environmental management: people behave most responsibly when they can most clearly see a payoff.
— Simon Levin, Complexity and the Commons
To be blunt we do not really understand one of our most commonplace experiences. We know how to use a word to mean something and to refer to something. ...Yet we do not know how we know how to do this, nor what we are doing when we do.
— Terence Deacon
Ecological studies, over the last half-century especially, have deepened our understanding of the relationships of species to environments: where deserts will occur, what the most productive regions of the oceans are, and so forth. Factors such as temperature and humidity delineate the types of plants, the types of animals, and hence the types of communities and ecosystems that can exist. Similarly, physical factors determine the patterns of productivity in the oceans, and thus the distributions of marine communities. Within those limitations, there is considerable scope for variability, but a careful examination of what is known provides a framework for asking more speculative questions.
— Simon Levin, Complexity and the Commons
Since the early days of biology, philosophers and scientists have noticed that living forms, in many seemingly mysterious ways, combine the stability of structure with the fluidity of change
— Fritjof Capra, Web Of Life
Change typically doesn’t happen without a struggle. It’s hard to convince people to move away from a view that is comfortable or widely held as true, or change behavioral pattern that has become their norm. You are persuading members of your audience to let go of old beliefs or habits and adopt new ones.
— Nancy Duarte, HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations
As soon as there is language, generality has entered the scene.
— Jacques Derrida
A better process for designing a complex program is to address all the elements at once. Let the various parts influence each other dynamically as they emerge from your pencil or your team’s whiteboard markers. Let them crash into each other and create new elements. Keep them in a liquid state long enough to see them morph and mutate into surprising new possibilities. Stir them until they blend into a seamless whole, one that’s more than the sum of its parts.
— Marty Neumeier
To manage the Earth’s systems and ensure survival, we have to harness the natural forces that organize the biosphere rather than fruitlessly try to resist them. The biosphere is a complex adaptive system whose essential structure has emerged in large part from adaptive changes that were mediated at local levels rather than at the level of the whole system
— Simon Levin, Complexity and the Commons
In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the medieval world-view, based on Aristotelian philosophy and Christian theology, changed radically. The notion of an organic, living, and spiritual universe was replaced by that of the world as a machine, and the world machine became the dominant metaphor of the modern era.
— Fritjof Capra, Web Of Life
…every machine is the spiritualization of an organism.
— Theo van Doesburg
We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.
— Carl Sagan
With humans stretching the ability of global ecosystems to support us sustainably, the need for a predictable ecological science has never been greater. We are entering a “no analog” ecological world, and general ecological principles that provide mechanisms and apply to such a world will be needed to predict its characteristics.
— Dodds, Laws, Theories, and Patterns in Ecology