Why it’s Important to Have Enough Dots to Connect

Broadening Experience Makes Better Connections

Every industry tends to be insular. Day to day operations dictate the kind of work we focus on, the divisional structure within the company drives the list of tasks per line of business or group. The focus can become very narrow.

So much so that if we're not careful, we become unaware of the percentage of time we spend on shallow work. Which in turn decreases the percentage of time we invest in breaking out of the same thinking that might have created or not addressed the new problems we face.

Something else happens. When we're fully immersed in one environment we end up absorbing the thinking of those around us, which typically stems from similar experiences. In other words, we may end up in a bubble, where many of the people we come into contact with have a vested interest in telling us what we want to hear, rather than what we may need to learn.

There's a reason why CEOs are some of the loneliest people in businesseveryone they work with works for them, the people they report to are often not the people they work with. In turn, those people are accountable to a third party that has no skin in the game except for the buying and selling of shares.

During our formative years we read novels, papers, books, and we're exposed to products and services made by people and organizations that may have changed entire industries. It's only years later than, if we're curious, that we end up reading more biographies. Good biographies can tell us a lot about how the people whose work we admire think.

Many industry titans and innovators who have a reading habit include a variety of topics as well as a selection of readings about the people they admire. It's a process that stars happening more as we get progressively comfortable in how knowledge works cumulatively.

The more we learn, and are open to different kinds of thinking, the more we also tend to view our experience as a starting point to build from and deepen. Our search for meaning and purpose escalates when we become increasingly frustrated by pat answers and curious about how we could do better. What's after mastery is practice, and more practice to get the nuances in.

But that's because we have enough life experience and learning dots to connect. It's human nature where once we get beyond survival, security, and belonging, we want deeper engagement with ourselves and the world that surrounds us.

How do we know if we're there? When people say in work-related situations things like, “be a specialist,” “don't worry about figuring out how it works,” “go along to get along,” etc., and it frustrates us. Because we want to continue advancing in our understanding and ability. When we feel those kinds of comments are not helpful and held us back, we know we're looking for what's next.

We're not alone in thinking it's worth figuring out how some of cross-industry or cross-domain stuff actually works beyond “best practice” advice. For example, the relationship between focus and perspective is useful and can open the door to higher value service. How we typically think about it vs. how it actually works over the long haul makes a big difference is a company's longevity as it increases its life time values.

Steve Jobs demonstrated how different experiences and curiosity go beyond informing our work to changing what we accomplish as a result:

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.