Collect and Connect the Dots

Posted by Chris Fowler on Dec 9, 2016 11:00:00 AM

In Lessons Learned, Problem Solving

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As each day passes, there’s an increased need to find solutions for the many problems we face, both big and small. In that search, it’s common to first look at what relevant experiences you have and try to “connect the dots” between them to sketch out a concept for what might work. But I think there’s another important step, one that would enable you to draw a more refined vision for success from learnings or resources from your connections and networks. It’s why of late, I make a conscious effort to “collect the dots” before I connect them.


When I think about “dots” that I use, they include experiences, people, and learnings that have made an impression on me. But it also includes lateral thinking and questioning assumed paradigms to ensure I am not limiting my own thoughts or vision for what success might look like.


Sometimes, the conscious effort of collecting the dots means that you slow down your ideation process, to ensure you aren’t moving too fast as to miss a better solution. But it also helps inform my openness to experiment and try any number of new things that push me outside of my comfort zone. Because that gives me a broader set of experiences to draw from in the future.


That latter point was made crystal clear to me in an interview I saw with the iconic graphic designer Paula Scher. Among other points about her style and work to date, she talked about her success creating a new logo for citi, which had at the time recently merged with Travelers Insurance. As the story goes, she created the new mark in “a second” during a coffee meeting. Her client was astonished in this flash of brilliance, but Scher was quick to note that she didn’t create it in a second, but, “ a second and 34 years.” She went on to say that she “drew that solution from every experience and every movie and everything in my life that’s in my head.”


ARTIST SERIES: Paula Scher from Hillman Curtis on Vimeo.


So the next time you have to solve a problem, think about how you might “collect the dots” before you try to connect them. The resulting solution will likely be more clear, more powerful and, in all likelihood, more enduring.