The “Adjacent Possible” consists of all those ideas that are one step away from what actually exists. One thing leads to another, and when you achieve an adjacent possibile, you may hit upon more adjacent possibles.
So exploring the edges can take you somewhere new that you can’t predefine. The adjacent possible is something that gets continuously shaped and reshaped by your actions and your choices.
Steven Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation (2010) urges, “The adjacent possible is a kind of shadow future, hovering on the edges of the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.”
Johnson borrowed the conception from biologist Stuart A. Kauffman’s The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution (1993.) This book examines a fundamental law of evolution: how everything has to evolve one step at a time within its realm of possibility, which sits directly adjacent to its current position. Novelty isn’t an abrupt, isolated happening, but rather stem from the voyaging of what is adjacent or related to what already exists.
Idea for Impact: Start at the edge of what works. Then, explore the adjacent possibile space. You may just get to those streams of opportunities that lead to the next big thing.