If you Google “end of Inter­net”, you will actu­al­ly find many pages that pur­port to the THE end: the last page of the Inter­net. Enjoy the fun to be had on this humourous page, but I’m par­tial to the page Bill Wein­man post­ed in 2006: In a mut­ed grey-on-grey colour scheme, it sim­ply says: “You have reached the end of the Inter­net. We hope you have enjoyed your expe­ri­ence. Now go out­side and play.”

Of course, there is no end to the Inter­net. The real­ly inter­est­ing sto­ry is about the begin­ning of the Inter­net — and that’s why I men­tion here Maria Popova’s “brain pick­ings” arti­cle on 100 Dia­grams That Changed The World, a 2012 book by Scott Chris­tian­son.

Christianson’s goal, as stat­ed in the Amazon.uk blurb, is to present “a fas­ci­nat­ing col­lec­tion of the most sig­nif­i­cant plans, sketch­es, draw­ings, and illus­tra­tions that have influ­enced and shaped the way we think about the world. From prim­i­tive cave paint­ings to Leonar­do da Vinci’s Vit­ru­vian Man to the com­pli­cat­ed DNA helix drawn by Crick and Wat­son to the inno­va­tion of the iPod, they chart dra­mat­ic break­throughs in our under­stand­ing of the world and its his­to­ry. Arranged chrono­log­i­cal­ly, each dia­gram is accom­pa­nied by infor­ma­tive text that makes even the most sci­en­tif­ic break­through acces­si­ble to all.”

In Popova’s overview, she under­scores the real achieve­ment of this book: “But most note­wor­thy of all is the way in which these dia­grams bespeak an essen­tial part of cul­ture — the aware­ness that every­thing builds on what came before, that cre­ativ­i­ty is com­bi­na­to­r­i­al, and that the most rad­i­cal inno­va­tions har­ness the cross-pol­li­na­tion of dis­ci­plines.”

Yes! After read­ing Popo­va, it dawned on me that the Roset­ta Stone (196 BC), the Helio­cen­tric Uni­verse of Nico­laus Coper­ni­cus (1543), the emoti­cons of Puck mag­a­zine in 1881, Tim Berners-Lee’s “mesh” infor­ma­tion sys­tem, start of the World Wide Web — and many oth­er dia­grammed rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the way things are (or could be) are, in effect, great exam­ples of nextsens­ing. In its own way, one could see this book as an inter­est­ing way to show how humans, across time, have actu­al­ly been very good at mak­ing sense of things to advance under­stand­ing by using graph­ic artistry. I sub­mit to you that the 100 dia­grammes in this book could quite pos­si­bly be seen as a graph­ic his­to­ry of find­ing next.

bigstock-Map-of-the-world-in-those-day-26738123

We’ve all heard the pic­ture-worth-a-thou­sand-words cliché. When I work with some groups try­ing to dis­cov­er their organisation’s next, I often find that the pow­er of visions con­vert­ed into images is often greater than the best-writ­ten busi­ness plan — at least in terms of ignit­ing some com­mon pas­sion around the dis­cus­sion table.

To be sure, Claudius Ptole­my way back in 150 A.D. had an even big­ger job in propos­ing to peo­ple what the entire world looked like as a map. And, in terms of being both accu­rate and to scale, Ptole­my was wrong. Yet, where would any of us be if he had not put forth his view of the next best way to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the globe?

Use words or draw pic­tures, either way the job of find­ing one’s next is an excit­ing jour­ney fraught with mis­con­cep­tions, mis­takes and mis­un­der­stand­ings. But, as a testable and doable prospec­tive oppor­tu­ni­ty evolves, one quick­ly sees that all the zig­ging and zag­ging that came before was quite pos­si­bly invalu­able.

Maria Popo­va is spot on when she asserts the impor­tance of plac­ing a high val­ue on “the aware­ness that every­thing builds on what came before, that cre­ativ­i­ty is com­bi­na­to­r­i­al, and that the most rad­i­cal inno­va­tions har­ness the cross-pol­li­na­tion of dis­ci­plines.”

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