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Understanding the block
While fearing not the blank canvas
A brief history of bits and bricks
We are entered in so called the knowledge society where knowledge is the only competitive advantage; thus is an asset — thank to all the information composed by undefined number of bits that have been processed over the years helping group of individuals take decisions. We use digital tools to gather information that will be transformed eventually into knowledge. No innovation starts with a digital platform, but most creative ideas start with a blank canvas instead.
Since the beginning of the internet and consumer software industry, we have experimented several transformations reaching an overall internet penetration of 95% in most developed countries.
The software itself has helped the human evolution through data and information access at scale, helping organizations understand better their stakeholders and allowing individuals to access new information in a democratic way — we won’t dive into details of the synergies between the software global community and the social development but I encourage you to expand your knowledge from open source and web3 communities.
For the matter of this topic, I just want to highlight a brief digital-history infographic I used in a Notion training at IE earlier in February:
But again, no big innovation has ever started just with bits, but thoughts; so a few years earlier, around the 60’s, the LEGO moulding philosophy was installed by Hans Schiess to change the way child play with games enlightening creativity super powers — just as Notion does with organizations thank to the block software.
Why? Because software should be
boring complexfun and beautiful.
Fear not the blank canvas
If I ask you get a piece a paper and do something with it; what would you do?
If you tend to humanism, you’d write a beatiful quote or paint something creative to impress me;
But if you’re a technician, you’d try to build a paper structure or create some geometric figure maybe, right?
Both are valid, obviously legit — both move towards a creative stimulus.
One habit that came along with me during both studies and professional career is hand-writing. It helps clarifying thoughts and organize ideas, as well as serving for taking practical notes and writing schemas — see the following schema for a simple CRM system:
However, we are not creative 100% of the time and some moments we feel not filling up even a word, neither a blank piece of paper or a canvas. I realized this feeling with most novel Notion users who are fascinated by the possibilities of the tool, but don’t feel enough confident to delegate part of their knowledge processes:
Should I use pages or databases? — try instead starting just with plain
Should I name it tasks or user stories? — try instead starting just with
Every time I start a product development or consulting project, I meet with my team in a room to discuss the problem-solution scene in a blackboard. You can extrapolate this context to the moment when creating a new Notion system that needs to be implemented: pick a piece of paper and write like in the image above with all the information you have about the system (entities, data types, relations, ideas etc).
They both start with a kind of game where we diverge and converge to configure the problem-solving context. In other words, we play like kids withs LEGOs to learn about the topic from the inputs given and our colleagues/stakeholders inputs, because we as creators are not meant to be productive by default; but to solve problems in an original way.
The Notion block
Notion holds more than 50 different types of blocks which extends recurrently with new internal improvements and external integration. Notion means ubiquity as it’s expressed in their value’s guide; the single point of contact for every software in your organization, the only all-in-one.
Everything in Notion is a block.
When you create a text piece, a page, callout, or database, you are generating blocks of information that you can later combine and edit with your style. Also, any the block you create in your new digital brain can be later transformed into another block type using the
turn into function from the block menu.
Well, if you are new to Notion, don’t think about a technical data layer to connect all your data sources and generate magically a “second-brain”. Notion is a knowledge space, handful and flexible for personal customization, where you can add external file-alike sources to gather information and generate knowledge.
Notion is not just a tool, it’s a culture — Easlo.
If you are still deciding which platform to use to store your most loved thoughts instead of nowhere more, just start your blank canvas. If you and your team are jumping between different tools and crafts to operate your busines, think that work as well as software should be beautiful.