As Steve Jobs prompted Stanford graduates during his inspiring 2005 commencement address, connecting the dots is an important pact of trust with yourself. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards,” he said.
But what does it mean to connect the dots and how to do you detect, let alone connect, the dots?
Connecting the dots originated from a game of connecting numbered dots to reveal a picture or drawing. Today, connecting the dots has evolved into a colloquialism about finding a pattern and understanding between different ideas and experiences. These connections can exist in the choices you make in your professional life to solve problems, address day-to-day challenges, and create new solutions for you and your team.
Detecting the dots requires the ability to zoom in and out of the issue at hand. Just like in the game, you need to be able to zero in on the task at hand and study it in depth, while at the same time be able to see clear and often hidden connections to other issues, tasks, risks, resources related to your specific task, an exercise that enables you to be proactive, specific, and well-rounded in your approach.
Easier said than done. A must-read on sharpening this skill is Daniel Pink’s bookA Whole New Mind. Pink highlights how a conceptual thinker will rule the world with inventiveness, empathy, and meaning. Inventiveness can help you solve everyday and long-term challenges. Empathy helps you connect with your family, friends, acquaintances, social service, and work colleagues. Meaning is both the underlying basis and the pinnacle of life. I have learned to detect dots by sharpening my eyes through observing nature, visiting museums, reading blogs and magazines completely out of my realm, watching old movies, and traveling.
Connecting the dots means that you find a common thread that binds the issues, concepts and resources in your project. Such thread may be something you can see and touch, a person, a tool, or a task, or it can be a concept, an advantage, an opportunity, or a threat. While many will say that past performance can drive future results, it is in seeing things with a fresh eye that unprecedented challenges can be resolved. This could make you not only proactive, but also an indispensable value-adding member of any team.
Connecting the dots can sharpen your perception, approach, and street smarts, but most importantly, it can enhance how you live, experience, and succeed in your personal and professional life.
What ways have you found to help you detect and connect the dots?
Marina Theodotou is a Public Private Partnership Strategist, lecturer and blogger with global experience who inspires teams to carve new paths in womenomics, entrepreneurship and sustainability. www.linkedin.com/in/marinatheodotou
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