I may have just re-discovered the universe …or How to solve problems

Here’s a thought, which might change the way you look at the world every day:

Everything in the world we live in is composed from atoms, into molecules, into organisms, and on and on…

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…and I’m not talking about the nature necessarily. I want you to think about this as a general pattern, which can be applied to basically anything. I’ll give you a few very simple examples.

First, some general ones:

  • People at work: person (atom) -> team (molecule) -> company (organism)
  • Knowledge: information (atom) -> connecting different pieces of information together (molecules) -> general knowledge (organism)
  • Human society: person (atom) -> family and friends (molecule) -> nation (organism)
  • Software development: functions (atoms) -> classes (molecules) -> modules (organisms) -> …

Next, some specific ones:

  • Atomic design — atoms -> molecules -> organisms -> templates -> pages
  • React.js — composing smaller components into bigger and bigger ones, until you have an app

Yeah, you’ve probably noticed this is the atomic design concept, just generalized. Also, the thought can be captured in a single word:


You’re probably thinking now: But wait, what’s the point? How is this helpful?

Well, next time you’re trying to solve a problem, try to apply the idea above. Don’t try to decompose the problem, but rather do a small thing here, do a small thing there, try a different approach, and then put everything together, at all the different levels. Have you ever experienced an “aha!” moment? :) This is usually what precedes it. You might be surprised at how effective thinking and learning this way is.

But why does it work? I guess everything boils down to the way our brains work. They work in two modes — focused and diffuse thinking. Normally only one of them is active. Applying this principle makes our brain switch between both of them much more frequently, enabling new perspectives and ideas emerge, making us more effective in the end.

The nature has used composition for billions of years. Humans are the best example of how effective composition can be. We’re built from tiny pieces, none of which have any meaning. But connecting them together, into bigger and bigger ones, until there’s just one, makes all those little pieces powerful, very powerful indeed.

Is this something that’s just plain obvious? Are you going to apply this idea? Please share in the comments :)

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