The central nervous system is composed of thousands of distinct neurons that are assembled in a highly organized structure. In order to form functional neuronal networks, distinct classes of cells have to be generated in a precise number, in a spatial and temporal hierarchy and to be positioned at specific coordinates. An exquisite coordination of appropriate growth of competent territories and their patterning is required for regionalization and neurogenesis along both the anterior-posterior and dorso-ventral axis of the developing nervous system. The neocortex represents the brain territory that has undergone a major increase in its relative size during the course of mammalian evolution. In this review we will discuss how the fine tuning of growth and cell fate patterning plays a crucial role in the achievement of the final size of central nervous system structures and how divergence might have contributed to the surface increase of the cerebral cortex in mammals. In particular, we will describe how lack of precision might have been instrumental to neocortical evolution.