A dot connector is a person who identifies potential relationships between things (or people) and makes them happen. They’re essentially master of networking who know mountains of people and always get the right people in the right room, and thereby “connect the dots.” This is ultimately a skill that requires thinking laterally to see potential relationships before they arise.
I’ve had the opportunity to see into companies innovating in the world of sports, whether it be through analytics or entirely rethinking the existing business model. This past week I had an opportunity to introduce two with aligned missions and was a part of a conversation that showed mutual benefit between them. Both work in opposite ends of the space but deal with roughly similar problems. Because of this either could use the other as a resource in the future, which reinforced the thought of getting them together.
Behind knowing a lot of people dot connectors must be able to have a vision of what can be. Malcom Gladwell speaks about this in his book The Tipping Point where he speaks of three types of people, one being connectors. Connectors are those who, “link us up with the world…people with a special gift for bringing the world together.” Often the most powerful ideas come from those who can bridge gaps across culture and industry to combine powerful ideas. Convergence is becoming the best form of innovation because it lets you see existing problems in a new light. A fascinating example of this comes from this Ted Talk by Jeff Bezos, where he speaks about electricity and compares it to the modern internet. All the infrastructure that provided electricity to homes was originally set up to support the invention of the light bulb. You could only connect light bulbs to the grid. However, as electric grids became more powerful other use cases became available for example electric home appliances. Someone looked at the light bulb and a pile of dirty laundry then invented a washing machine (probably not the exact process). The crucial takeaway here was that nothing is as important for progress as the intersection of ideas. By finding the commonalities you have the ability to create more permutations of anything.
Ultimately connecting the dots is a skill that translates between people and ideas extremely well. If you can find unexpected combinations of people or technologies that look at problems in an innovative way, you can change everything. To me this is the highest form of creativity. Look at Uber, the founders saw the advent of mobile applications as an opportunity to improve how people got around. Two seemingly uncorrelated ideas that when put together created a totally new way to transport people.
Connecting new ideas has become the skill I am working on most. I’ve looked to understand new use cases of old products and find new people to connect. I’ve begun to look for every opportunity to reevaluate and change the context of a problems to find new relationship patterns. The fundamentals of most successful ideas can be translated to different domains with little friction; which is why startups often pitch as “Airbnb for X”. I’d like to leave you with one question, how can you create a mental model to find connections across the different areas of your life? Let me know what unexpected connections you see in the world and send me an email. If you enjoyed this article Sign up for my newsletter here and get my BEST from every week.