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Organizational Tools and Strategies
Key takeaways from 'Managing Ideas, People and Projects' by Dr. Michael Levin
If you’ve followed this newsletter for a bit then you’ve read me describe Dr. Michael Levin’s work before and know I’m a fan of his thinking. Just last week I mentioned how he was our winner on the podcast for most profound interview of 2021.
So when I caught a thread on Twitter with one of his followers asking…
…I was intrigued by his answer, which was a quick link to a paper titled Managing Ideas, People, and Projects: Organizational Tools and Strategies for Researchers, written by him and what appears to be a relative.
I jumped on it immediately. Below are my high level takeaways on how a world renowned researcher and growing science personality thinks about his thinking.
On to it —
10 Rules for Information
Information should be easy to find and access.
Information should be organized hierarchically and searchable by keywords.
Information should be reachable anywhere in the world.
No information should ever be lost.
Save information in software tools with interoperable formats.
Digital world is organized in 2 categories: Activities and knowledge.
Activities should be hierarchically organized on a temporal scale.
Storage of planning data should allow integration with information needed to implement them.
No stored paper → or at least transfer most important information to digital.
Information management should not distract from research.
There are 3 types of information:
How to Facilitate Creativity
“The pipeline begins with ideas, which must be cultivated and then harnessed for subsequent implementation.
This step consists of two components: identifying salient new information and arranging it in a way that facilitates novel ideas, associations, hypotheses, and strategic plans for making impact.”
A Scale of Activity Planning for Lifelong Discoverers
“Activities should be assigned to a level of planning with a temporal scale, based on how often the goals of that level get re-evaluated. This ranges from core values, which can span an entire career or lifetime, all the way to tactics that guide day-to-day activities. Each level should be re-evaluated at a reasonable time frame to ensure that its goals are still consistent with the bigger picture of the level(s) above it and to help re-define the plans for the levels below it.”
What I changed after reading this paper
When my habit for note-taking emerged, my medium of choice became and had remained paper first. After reading this and further considering the benefits of having a more readily searchable outlet for storing information, I started playing with a handful of different digital tools for doing so, including Roam, Loqseq and Obsidian. I am settling into a hybrid workflow between the latter 2 for the fact that they are free, open source and available on mobile.
The thing I like about these tools that’s different from a simple text document is their ability to enable deeper networked thinking via their graph views of all your entries or tags, showing each as a node with edges connecting entires that are referential to one another.
I encourage anyone following my ramblings here who’s gone through a similar iterative cycle of finding best practices for making note-taking valuable to poke me on Twitter or drop a comment below with what systems you’ve settled into.
If you’re like me and would like to keep up with Dr. Levin’s work, I’ve found his Twitter to be a good place to do so. Next month, Michael will be re-joining us on the podcast to talk about some new papers that he’s working on currently.
Next week, I’m going to talk about the difference between sales and marketing.