Leigh Baker | November 21, 2023

To me, quotes distill essential concepts – especially around human systems innovation.

After years of scraps of paper and link collections, here are some of my innovation favourites.

I’m also running a collection of quotes on regenerative design here: Quotes for Regenerators.

What are the quotes that you keep coming back to?

On design…

“We don’t have the money, therefore we must think.”

Ernest Rutherford.

On humans and “logic”…

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Variously attributed to Einstein and Mark Twain

The human mind does not run on logic any more than a horse runs on petrol.

Rory Sutherland, in Alchemy

On changing human systems…

“You can’t solve a problem from the mindset that created it” 

Albert Einstein

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” 

Richard Buckminster Fuller

“Successful innovation is the adoption of a new practice by a community…”

Denning and Dunham, The Innovator’s Way

“…Simple stocks and flows, plumbed together, create systems way too complicated and dynamically complex to figure out easily….

Leverage points are points of power….

Give me a few months or years and I’ll figure it out.

And I know from bitter experience that, because they are so counterintuitive, when I do discover a system’s leverage points, hardly anybody will believe me.”

Donella H. Meadows,. Thinking in Systems

“Vision without systems thinking, ends up painting lovely pictures of the future with no deep understanding of the forces that must be mastered to move from here to there.”

Peter M. Senge, Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

On how we use language…

“…the truly unique feature of our language is … the ability to transmit information about things that do not exist at all. As far as we know, only Sapiens can talk about entire kinds of entities that they have never seen, touched or smelled.”

Yuval Noah Harari, SAPIENS

Importance of images…

Half of the nerve fibres in our brains are linked to our vision and, when our eyes are open, vision accounts for two-thirds of the electrical activity in the brain. It takes just 150 milliseconds for the brain to recognise an image and a mere 100 milliseconds more to attach a meaning to it.

Raworth, Kate. Doughnut Economics (p. 11)