I so enjoyed the “Connecting the Dots” or “Dot to Dot” game when I was a child. Seeing an image appear before me, as if by magic, when I connected the dots in the correct sequence gave me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. It was fascinating to attempt to work out the shapes and forms of objects before I tried to complete the picture, with a resultant victory cry when I guessed correctly. Childhood was a creative and exploratory time for me.
I have found that being an adult (and especially a leader) also has a requirement of being able to connect the dots – the dots are more complex and interwoven than the puzzles of my youth, but nevertheless need to be connected. I am referring to the complex web of relationships and contacts, bits of information, preferred wisdom and pieces of insight that cross one’s path on a daily basis. These “dots” are crucial “bytes” of information that contribute perhaps to a later connectivity of facts that piece together an idea or possibly even a set of natural network relationships. These same relationships may provide the environment where thoughts are leveraged to find new solutions and alternative ways of accomplishing one’s goals. Connecting these dots create opportunities, faster solutions to problem-solving and the potential of using the expertise of others to finding the path ahead.
One of the most practical ways of “collecting dots” is to read extensively. David Silverstein (CEO of Breakthrough Management Group International) noted: “Reading is the most essential dot-collection method, though it’s not the only one. The more the people in a company read, the faster they will see impending threats, come up with responses to them and – most importantly – innovate. The more dots people collect, the more their innovative juices flow and many of those dots come through reading”.
Dot-collecting methods may include some/all of the following:
- Reading – not just books that relate directly to your field of expertise, but reading material that deals with other aspects of professionalism, other fields of study and other life issues. These books give insight into problem-solving, life-skills and alternative ways of accomplishing objectives.
- Appointing a mentor for yourself – a mentor holds you accountable to decisions made, provides alternative ways of considering a situation and challenges your ways of thinking.
- Industry tours of processes with which you are unfamiliar – being taken on a tour of a production facility or getting to grips with the demands of being in a service industry takes one’s mind to new places of understanding and discovery.
- Joining a business network group or breakfast club – interaction at events of this nature provide insight into common and uncommon issues and give one a more universal feel of the nuances of business operations as a whole.
- Surfing the internet – looking for international bench-marking examples and industry-specific excellence challenges “stretch” in one’s own field.
We need to make the dot connections, however, just having information filed in one’s brain is useless unless applied appropriately. Seth Godin suggests: “Without a doubt, the ability to connect dots is rare and valuable. Connecting the dots, solving a problem that hasn’t been solved before and seeing the pattern before it’s made obvious is more essential than ever before”. With inherent creativity and a will to explore possibility, the human being is able to find ways to overcome obstacles and conquer that which seems impossible to the ordinary mind.
The mind will automatically start connecting dots if we determine to think through all of our experiences, meetings and pieces of information that may have relevance on a current situation – piecing together different strands of input helps us to formulate plans to overcome difficulties and obstacles and also to find opportunity in our complex world.