Why Some Are Good At Connecting Dots, Some Aren’t?
I recently did an experiment with a group of mid-career, earnest learners. I said, “please, close your eyes for a moment.” They were puzzled and did it sportively. I added, “What are the top three things you look for in other people’s resume/linkedin profile?” They thought for a moment and shared their thoughts. I patiently listened and then added, “how many of those do you showcase in your own profile?” They paused and then chuckled. Understanding smiles filled the room. That moment is priceless.
What happens if we extend self-awareness to something beyond — a pedigree that is (still) only human — connecting the dots between seemingly disjoint things that creates new solutions, new ahas?
Is there a structure to this human exuberance? Can there be logic to this instinct? That is the attempt of this blog.
First the parallel story
In 2004, David Heinemeier Hansson(DHH), a Danish programmer was tasked with developing a product for a company called Basecamp. He wrote it in a simple programming language called Ruby. While developing the product, he noticed that he was writing code for repetitive tasks like web page login which are common across web products. So, he extracted these regular tasks and created a “tool” called Ruby on Rails and made it open for anyone to use.
It became the hack behind famous websites we know today. Airbnb, Twitter (early days), Hulu, LinkedIn’s Slideshare and Jack Dorsey’s Square and many more.
How is this tool related to “connecting the dots?” The way we process information in our mind, is somewhat similar to computer. A picture is a thousand words, here are my parallels.
If we stack the languages of a computer — the endless string of pure zeros and ones is called the machine language at the lowest rung. Reading that can tire the human eye. The one above it, the assembly language is like shorthand. It is better, but still tedious for human recollection. Above that is the human readable language of “Hello world!” made famous by Kernighan and Richie, in their book, The C programming language.
Our memories are like the machine language, our knowledge is like assembly language, our experience (that jells our knowledge) is like the programming languages that we recollect in our conscious mind.
If these are parallels, I started to wonder. Just like how DHH revolutionized Ruby programming language with his hack — Ruby on Rails, is there a hack that would get us a pattern for connecting experiences faster than logic?
Trends from my Blogging Experiences
When I started blogging (first on LinkedIn) — I made a conscious choice. I was going to let my heart lead the way while writing. Unlike my work that is heavy on analytics, I did not want to logically think through things. Go with the flow and enjoy the ride was my mantra. Every time, I felt I did justice to my goal, something consistent happened. Like clockwork, Trent (an ardent reader) was among the first to comment and he added a moniker — a middle name I never had, “connect the dots.” When I examined those blogs for trends, it created the aha for me today.
Logic can help us connect the dots between experiences. That is the hard, logical way. The hack that can turbo charge “connecting the dots” are feelings. Almost, all of us connect experiences through feelings. Many of us subconsciously.
Bring it all together.
One of the biggest joy is self-awareness especially the useful kind. When you place a special type of mirror in front of people that reflects back to them their unconscious acts to their conscious face- it brings a unique smile on their faces which is priceless.
In my journey of discovery wearing my thinking hat — I landed on my heart. The pathway that connect the dots between seemingly unrelated items are feelings. All of us do it, most of us unconsciously. What happens if we become self-aware of our feelings in our conscious mind?
If we dig deeper into Emotional Quotient (EQ) or spirituality, the common element is self-awareness. Today, it dawned on me that the self-awareness on its own is incomplete. Being more specific, it is a self-awareness of feelings. Feelings have a long history and we can recollect them with greater accuracy from deep memories.
My aha- feelings trigger connections between experiences, logic helps me explain “connect the dots” experience, after the fact.