How Dots Will Make You a More Creative Leader

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In my new TEDx Talk, I talk a lot about dots. Dots, dots, dots. Why would I waste so much of my precious 18 minutes talking about dots?

Because dots are the building blocks of creativity, and creativity is an essential trait of a great leader.

It all begins and ends with this one, simple point: Creativity is all about connecting dots.

#Creativity is all about connecting dots. Click To Tweet

So what are these dots? Anything and everything. Experiences. Ideas. People. Something you read. Someplace you visit. Someone you meet. Everything that comes into your world, into your awareness, is a dot. And when you connect two or more of these dots, there’s a little spark.

And that spark is called creativity.

Now here’s the really cool part. The more of these dots you collect—the more experiences, ideas, and people you have in your life—and the more different they are, the more creative your connections will be. That’s a really valuable attribute for a leader to have. And it’s also a valuable attribute for that leader’s team. Because another cool thing about collecting lots of dots is that when you have a lot of dots, patterns start to emerge. These patterns can help you see things the competition can’t see. That makes sense, doesn’t it? If you have a dot that your competitor doesn’t have, then that competitor can’t possibly make the same connection you can.

Here’s a collection of dots:

These dots are world famous. Over one and a half million people see these dots each year. These dots live in Chicago, in room 201 of the Art Institute of Chicago. These dots were put onto a canvas in 1884 by an artist named George Seurat. And when you take a step back to see the patterns, they look like this:

The painting is called La Grande Jatte, and I visit it at least once a year. I do this because I love the painting (along with all the other amazing works of art at the Art Institute of Chicago!). But I also do it because it’s a great reminder of how dots really work.

See, when you look at the dots up close, individually, they don’t seem to relate to each other. There’s a blue dot next to a yellow dot. Over there is a black dot, and a green one. Now, again, think of the experiences, the ideas, and the people in your life as individual dots. There’s your Uber driver, and your 12-year-old niece, and that time you got lost in Ireland, and that article you once read about why shoelaces untie themselves. Separately, these all seem entirely unrelated—and they are. But you collect enough of these dots, and all of a sudden patterns start to reveal themselves. And ten years later your niece invents self-tying shoelaces with a built in GPS that will automatically call an Uber driver if you get lost.

As a leader, then, you owe it to yourself, your team, and your organization to collect as many disparate dots as you can. Read voraciously. Talk to lots of people. Travel. Because you never know which obscure dot is going to be the billion-dollar answer to your million-dollar challenge.

You never know which obscure dot will be the billion-dollar answer to your million-dollar challenge. #creativity Click To Tweet

About the Author:

29-time Emmy Award winner and Hall of Fame keynote speaker Bill Stainton, CSP is an expert on Innovation, Creativity, and Breakthrough Thinking. He helps leaders and their teams come up with innovative solutions — on demand — to their most challenging problems.
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