Connecting The Dots at Work

Nov 17, 2016 / Day Job & the Practical / how to be creative

“You have to be creative” is a current mantra being bandied around at work. But how do you actually do that in the work situation?

I came across a quote from Steve Jobs where he spoke about creativity. He said that it is simply connecting the dots. It’s about connecting disparate ideas, perspectives, and experiences, to create something new.

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.

Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. 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.

Steve Jobs, Wired, February, 1996

Have Diverse Experiences At Work

It’s not enough to have a lot of “work experience.” The operative word is “diverse.” If I were advising my younger self today, I would move around constantly to get diverse experiences and perspectives. I would do this early in my career when I’m not “too expensive.” I would have moved to different departments such as IT, HR, or Sales. I would not be stuck in one place.

Of course, It all depends on what your career goals are. Do you want to be managing a team? Do you want to be an analyst, a manager, a senior manager, a director, A VP, a President? I think the higher your aspirations, the more important it is to move around.

Have Diverse Experiences Outside of Work

And it doesn’t have to be work related. It could be diverse experiences outside of workäóîlike what I’m doing with with being an artist. I frequently find that my job benefits from the fact that I’m an artist. It shows up in very small ways - like how I lay out and create a spreadsheet. It’s a really small thing, but it gives me so much inner satisfaction (like I have some sort of secret that only I could see). That’s why I’m writing this blogäóîto document what I’m learning and help other people who want to improve their job satisfaction using the artist mindset.

So what is the result of of having diverse experiences?

It will set the stage for coming up with unexpected non-linear solutions. You’ll be connecting the dots, and your job will be less boring because you’ve built into it the sense of discovery and play. Wouldn’t that be cool?

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