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On creative endeavors // 五類創造性工作及交互作用

Summary: In the context of individual pursuit and company pursuit, any creative endeavor could be put into one of five categories: Vision, Strategy, Design, Engineering, Science. Going top-down, vision leads strategy, which leads design, which leads engineering, which leads science. Going bottom-up, science informs engineering, which informs design, which informs strategy, which informs vision. Respecting this bidirectionality yields best results.

1- It seems that any creative endeavor, be it for the pursuit of an individual or of a company, could be put into one of five categories: Vision, Strategy, Design, Engineering, and Science.

2- Vision is the foundation of everything. It may come from personal motivation, collective philosophy, industry forces, or civilization trends.

3- Strategy encapsulates the hollistic consideration of pursuing a Vision.

4- Design concerns envisioning individual projects to achieve strategic goals.

5- Engineering concerns the architecting and implementation of individual projects to realize design goals.

6- Science concerns open-ended or semi open-ended exploration of open questions that may inspire new approaches or invalidate existing approaches in any of the categories above.

7- It is intuitive to take the top-down approach and assert that Vision leads Strategy (given a vision, strategic goals are devised to connect the present and the vision step by step), and that Strategy leads Design (given strategic goals, concrete actionable projects are designed to help achieve the goals), and that Design leads Engineering (given specific designs, engineering solutions are invented to materialize the designs), and that Engineering leads Science (given engineering challenges that can not be surpassed by pure engineering effort, open-ended investigation aka scientific method is used to expand the zone of understanding and explore new ideas). Without thinking top-down, priorities could be misplaced, and resources wasted pursuing misinformed goals, self-deceiving goals, or fleeting & fragmented insights.

8- Yet the bottom-up approach is also crucial. Without reasonable strategic support, Vision stays a mirage. Without concrete Design ideas and specifications, Strategy is not actionable. Without Engineering informing what is practical, performant and efficient, Design materializes incompletely or does not materialize at all within resource constraints. Without Science’s guidance, Engineering solutions may stay inaccessible, or may not touch upon the essential truth of the medium involved, which makes them suboptimal at best, bruteforced at worst, and likely not future-proof. For innovative pursuits, it is crucial to make the upper categories open to radical reconsideration in light of findings in lower categories. (thanks to David Brillembourg’s comment on iPhone’s story)

9- Another way to look at this is to think about the interplay between medium and art. Native art leverages the native properties of a medium. Without understanding what’s native to a new medium (author add: or with understanding but without the willingness to pursue it), art created in that medium stays skeuomorphic and unable to realize true potential of the medium. In light of this analogy, Vision is the art with Strategy as medium. Strategy is the art with Design as medium. Design is the art with Engineering as medium. Engineering is the art with Science as medium. Equivalently, the lower categories inform the attainability and actionable items for upper categories.

10- On how to unblock one’s organization or oneself: oftentimes we encounter impasse - unable to clarify Vision, unable to formulate satisfying Strategy, unable to come up with enticing Design, unable to kickstart Engineering, unable to grapple with Science. It is helpful to switch gear and engage in endeavors in other categories that are actionable in the here and now. Sometimes progress made in one category could unexpectedly tip the scale, boost morale, renew motivation, and open up new options to enable upper categories or lower categories. However, sticking to certain category for too long, perhaps because it stays deliciously actionable and perhaps the momentum of “making progress” is addictive, without regularly reevaluating the bidrectionality and priorites could be dangerous.

11- In the context of company pursuit, let’s use a recent snapshot of Topology as an example.

o. Vision: Verifiable computing will play a key role in shaping the future of our society amidst current institutional failures and coordination challenges - particularly in shaping new social technologies of production and knowledge to escape the post-industrial trap, to paraphrase Samo Burja. The company is founded to pursue understanding of this shift and to help drive the shift towards good causes.

o. Strategy: (S1) study and identify the lay of the land; (S2) pursue creative projects that challenge the boundary of what verifiable computing enables and glean concrete insights to inform next steps; (S3) help propagate knowledge of verifiable computing to the public.

o. Design: (S1) leads to (D1): pursue directed studies such as for ZKHack problems, which led to this mental model; (S2) leads to (D2): Topology pursued various experimental projects, the results of which were shared in our talk at STARKVietnam; (S3) leads to (D3): Topology created Starknet House and continues to pursue developer education in different approaches.

o. Engineering: (D1) leads to (E1): find study materials (e.g. ethSTARK) and work with study partners (such as our good friend Ole Spjeldnas) and mentors; (D2) leads to (E2): engage in concrete smart contract and full stack system architecting, implementation, testing, and iterating with playtesters; (D3) leads to (E3) engage in concrete operations team formation, training, operations planning and execution.

o. Science: (E1) calls for (S1): engage in open ended study in cryptography, programming languages, compiler tooling, security, category theory etc; (E2) calls for (S2): engage in open ended study in functional programming, reactive programming, design for modularity and encapsulation, testing methodologies, design iteration approaches; (E3) calls for (S3): study management theories and practices.

12- The categories at the extrema are uniquely valuable: Vision is the fundamental driving force of all endeavors; Science helps the organization or person venture into the unknown and could help open up new avenues or lead to insights that break impasse in all other categories. They are quadrant two activities [Stephen Covey].

13- The same framework could be nicely applied to personal endeavors.

(insight from discussion with David Brillembourg)


1- 不管是針對個人追求或是組織追求,任何創造性的工作似乎都可以被分作五類:願景、策略、設計、工程、科學。

2- 願景是一切的根基和原動力。願景可以來自個人動機、群眾共識的哲學理想、產業變遷的力量、文明演化的趨勢。

3- 策略囊括所有為了追求願景而擬定的具體作為或目標。

4- 設計囊括所有具體的實驗項目、產品規劃等,為了實現特定策略目標。

5- 工程包含了將項目或產品具體架構並實踐的所有行為。

6- 科學包含所有針對任何開放性問題所進行的開放性或半開放性的探索和學習,可能為往上的任何一層帶來完全新的思維作法或徹底推翻既有的思維作法。

7- 普遍直覺會採取自上而下的考量,認為要由願景指揮策略(給定一個願景,擬定策略目標來一步一步將現狀推向未來願景)、由策略指揮設計(給定策略目標,設計具體的產品或實驗規劃來實現目標)、由設計指揮工程(給定特定產品或實驗設計,發明具體的工程作法將設計化為現實)、由工程指揮科學(面對具體工程難題,無法以已知工程方法克服,而進行半開放或開放式的科學方法探詢,拓展認知邊界以求發明新解法)。倘若缺乏自上而下的考量,事情優先級將無從定序,資源將被浪費於歪曲無謂的目標、自欺欺人或自圓其說的目標、或是突如其來或碎片化的新洞見。

8- 然而,自下而上的考量同等重要。沒有合理的策略支撐,願景流於幻象。沒有具體的設計想法和規格支撐,策略只是空談、不具備可行動性。沒有工程經驗或認知指引作法是否實際、有好的效能或效率,設計想法在組織資源約束下或者被不完整的實現,或者完全無法付諸實現。沒有科學認知的引導,工程解法只能停留在現存已知的解法,非最優解、無法觸及媒介的本質,並且容易隨時間推移變得無效。追求創新的組織或個人必須在下位類別出現新發現時願意激進的重新審視甚至打破上位類別的既有做法。(感謝 David Brillembourg 以 iPhone 的故事作補充)

9- 換個角度,可以借鑑「媒介與創作」之間的相互作用。放大媒介本質進行的創作是原生的創作,是以媒介核心特徵作為創作的核心姿態 (big gesture)。倘若對新媒介的本質缺乏認識(補充:或者其實認識卻未深究),所實現的創作只能稱為仿作(skeumorphism),是對既有媒介已確立創作模式的生搬硬套,無法實現新媒介的真正潛能。以此類比,願景是以策略為媒介進行的創作。策略是以設計為媒介進行的創作。設計是以工程為媒介進行的創作。工程是以科學為媒介進行的創作。下位類別決定上位類別的可達性和有效性。

10- 無論組織或個人,陷入泥淖時如何自我解套?組織和個人往往陷入僵局:無法澄清願景、無法擬定令人滿意的策略、無法想出具備吸引力的項目設計、無法開始工程實踐、無法在科學探詢時獲得新認知。換檔改做其他類別、在此刻此地具備可行動性的事是有助益的。有時換檔改做的事情能無意中打破其他類別的僵局、提升士氣、重燃動機,或在其他類別中開展新的選項。然而,在一個類別耽擱太久 - 或許因為該類別的事情做起來非常美味,或許因為「持續有產出」是令人上癮的 - 卻沒有紀律重新審視事情優先級,同時以自上而下和自下而上的方式宏觀考量,是危險的。

11- 以 Topology 現況快照為例:

o. 願景:在機構失靈、協作斷裂的今日,我們相信可驗證運算將扮演形塑未來社會結構的一股重要力量 - 尤其在形塑新的社會技術支配未來的生產模式與知識創造模式,以求逃離後工業社會泥淖 (引用 Samo Burja)。公司的成立是為了追求理解這股力量,並且將力量導引至好的方向。

o. 策略:(S1)「探圖」- 研究這股力量的現狀;(S2)以實驗性質的創意項目來挑戰既有技術媒介的邊界,過程所得教訓可以指引前行方向;(S3)在理解範疇內對大眾進行可驗證運算潛能的教育和散播。

o. 設計:(S1)指揮(D1):在明確框架下進行學習,例如參與 ZKHack 解謎,並因此構建此心智模型;(S2)指揮(D2):進行各種實驗型項目,其結果與帶來的新認知都在 STARKVietnam 報告中公開呈現;(S3)指揮(D3):建立 Starknet House 並且以不同方式持續進行開發者教育。

o. 工程:(D1)指揮(E1):搜尋學習資料 (例如 ethSTARK) 並和讀書夥伴與導師一起學習(例如好友 Ole Spjeldnas);(D2)指揮(E2):針對每個實驗性項目設計進行智能合約以及網路應用全端開發的架構、實作、測試,並與試玩者一起迭代;(D3)指揮(E3):構建運營團隊、進行團隊訓練和磨合、一起規劃並執行教育活動項目。

o. 科學:(E1)指揮(S1):針對密碼學、程式語言設計、編譯工具、資訊安全、範疇論(category theory)等領域進行開放式的學習;(E2)指揮(S2):針對函式編程、響應式編程、模組化設計和封裝方法(encapsulation)、測試方法論、迭代方法論等進行開放式學習;(E3)指揮(S3):學習管理理論和最佳實踐。

12- 五類之中,處於兩個極端的類別有獨特價值:願景是一切行為的原動力;科學幫助組織或個人探索陌生的認知領域,有助於打開新選項或打破其餘類別面臨的僵局。此二類為「第二象限」的活動 [Stephen Covey]。

13- 此框架於個人追求語境下同樣適用。