The most efficient: top down or bottom up?
As the reader may have gathered, this book was written in true bottom up style. Starting from an arbitrary point, and letting the the book evolve as a response to feedback and inspiration, it took unpredictable directions and came to conclusions that were even a surprise to me.
It thus serves as a real life example of the creative strategy described in the book itself. Another paradox: a book that describes its own strategy for creation.
To put this into perspective, the writing had really been born in the tangible world of bricks and mortar. The physical world of book publishing is a conservative industry that invests in formulated plans in the form of detailed book proposals where the content is fully specified before it is written. These comprehensive proposals are needed to gain the marketing and financial support necessary before a book deal can be finalised.
Although the acquisition editor was aware of the way I would write the book, a detailed table of contents had to be supplied as part of the proposal. This could only be approached from a top down perspective. After thinking carefully about what I thought the book should contain, I wrote down a list of chapters and subheadings to include all the points I thought might be important and likely to be covered.
It looked impressive, but, I never once looked at it again until the book was completely finished. Then, when I had written the draft of the final chapter, I read through the list to check to see what things I might have missed. Reading all the subheadings, and ticking those that had been covered, I was surprised to find that the seemingly directionless bottom up approach had covered every single point in the first half of the proposed chapters. The book had apparently produced exactly the same result as is I'd have used a top down approach: with one exception, exactly halfway through the original list the ticking stopped. The book had covered only half of the content I had originally thought would be necessary.
At first, it seemed that the bottom up approach had been inefficient. I then realised that by working with the feedback from the cafe I'd been able to cover points I would probably have missed with the planned, top down approach. I'd also been able to add additional explanation where aspects weren't clear and provide duplicate explanations to cover more than one viewpoint. More importantly, I'd included topics and conclusions that I had no idea existed when I'd written out the initial proposal. It was this additional material that had accounted for the apparent loss in efficiency.
What it proved then is that the top down approach might only give the illusion of being a more efficient way to produce a product or solution. In actuality, it was less efficient because it would likely result in an inferior product.
A follow up book?
Stopping half way through a proposed list of contents isn't as odd as it seems. The first half of the original proposal concentrated on abstract thoughts and ways of thinking about the problems associated with the complexity of the Internet environment.
In stark contrast to the first, the second half is concerned with more practical issues: putting the ideas into practical effect in real life situations. This is a sharp division and justifies the original proposal being split up into two separate books. The publisher agreed and immediately accepted a proposal for another, follow up book based upon the second half of my original proposal. The provisional title to be "The ultimate game of strategy - finding a personal niche in the world of e-business".
By continuing with a follow up book, it would allow me to go deeper into the mechanics of game theory; make practical use of the cafe for imaginative communication strategies; join and create networks of co-operators and collaborators; introduce the concepts of evolutionary biology into the design of dynamic Web based systems; explore the use of powerful Web site design software packages; investigate the strange phenomena of hubs and portals.
More interestingly, it will allow me to write a book as I go through the mechanics of creating a real life e-business from scratch and write about the step by step progress as it proceeds. For both me and the readers, it would be an opportunity to explore the challenge of starting from a square one position, but, with the advantage of having a powerful set of conceptual tools to enhance competitiveness.