Connecting dots is a very powerful concept behind scientific discovery and business innovation. It has been well described by Jerzy Vetulani, Polish neuroscientist during his speech at TEDxKrakow.
In the wildlife connecting dots is absolutely essential for survival. Some wild animals like jaguars evolved dots and spots to become more difficult to recognise. You fail at recognising the pattern and you don’t stay alive for too long.
Human’s world is not that cruel (at least not in this aspect) but still to create something disruptive you may need to notice links between things that at the first glance seem unrelated or very complex. Like finding out the relationship between chemical elements in case of Mendeleev and his periodic table or noticing global need for homework help in case of Brainly.
Connecting dots is a mix of collecting various experiences and giving your mind time to process it and make connections.
How it works?
Well – firstly, you need dots.
Dots are different experiences. Books you read, videos you watch, situation you encounter, topics you discuss, all your successes and failures. The more diverse the better.
It doesn’t make sense to be too strict about selecting dots. Even if something seems inpractical or negative – you never know how it will fit in a bigger picture few years from now. Like in case of Steve’s typography course and dropping out from the university, which eventually led to creation of the best designed OS. You should always stay open-minded and hungry for new experience.
Thing number two is giving your mind time to connect dots. It can happen during your sleep or suddenly in the middle of a day.
You cannot entirely control it. But you can affect it.
Studies show that certainly not by overworking, rather by relaxing and playing, because it makes your mind more active. So make sure you have enough sleep and let yourself have some fun. Playing a video game, watching a movie, socializing or having a walk can do the job. Some Noble-prize winners and scientists went even further in stimulating their minds for creativity.
Working hard is really good for getting shit done. Very often it is absolutely necessary. But for being creative and disruptive, you may need something completely different. Do not be too strict for yourself.
Steve Job’s view on lack of this skill:
A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.