You see the world in a different way. It’s baked into you. It’s your unique advantage. It’s what will help turn people’s heads with your interestingness, and help you be someone they want to keep following once you have their attention.

Whether this creativity is what naturally comes out of you or you need to work at it, we can all grow in our skill of pivoting in how we see things. The benefit? Draw out new and amplify your insights. And your awesomeness as a reacher, teacher, and leader.

Here are a few ways to exercise your skill in connecting ideas and people in fresh ways:

1. Discern between the acts of exploring/gathering ideas and the act of connecting them

Consider a writing analogy. Sometimes you write freely just to “get it out.” Other times you edit. It’s usually painful and unproductive to try to do both at the same time.

Exploring, whether that’s in a library or browsing the web, is itself something that will help you generate new ideas. Just don’t confuse that with the process of connecting ideas to express a unique perspective.

2. Analyze ideas with the “5Ws and H” questions

Before you get to creating something new, look for connections by asking questions of whatever it is you’re looking at. The five questions, who?, why?, what?, when?, where?, and how? are best when you ask your data set (or whatever you’re assessing) one question at a time.

As you grow, you’ll find new commonalities, connections, and insights. In other words, you’ll connect the dots in fresh new ways.

3. Always get around to the Who? question

Ideas a great and necessary, but as we evolve into the Connectorship Age, the challenge will increasingly be that ideas are abundant. Overabundant. Perhaps even just another part of the noise and overwhelm.

Relationship is the new killer app (like it ever wasn’t!). If you’re going to form and deepen positive relationships, sooner or later the context of “who” must be addressed.

4. Practice “zooming” to help you find new connections with ideas

From a small issue, zoom out to help you find connection to bigger picture.

From a bigger picture, zoom in to help you focus on a more specific idea.

5. Practice “zooming” to help you find new connections with time

Given that we all are inextricably bound by the passage of time, the relationship of an idea or person to “when” is rather critical.

Zooming from the long term to the “right now” will help with connecting to immediacy (of the need for action or…).

Zooming from the right-now to the long term will help with connecting to context (especially of impact).

6. Challenge yourself to express complexity in a simple way and understand the depth behind the simplicty

Think about an academic paper. It starts with a summary or abstract of the whole enchilada, and then goes on to give you the 15 pages of details.

Complexity is simply something with many parts or details. Simplicity isn’t it’s antithesis, it’s a different expression or view of what you see.

Remember, complexity without simplicity is just, well, a mess. And simplicity without an underlying depth is being simplistic.

7. Look for the story

Experts on story disagree on many things such as how many forms of story there are, three things are true. What they do agree on is that story is the primary way we make meaning and that stories generally…

  • express how and why life changes
  • express change by resolving conflict of some form
  • ring true for us because we relate to the humanity in them (even if the story isn’t about humans).

Finding the story in a mess of anything involves looking for a “who” and a “why” that’s expressed in a before and after. Whatever you’re looking at when expanding your creative perspective(s), try looking relating it to a who in terms of problem/promise, now/later, before/after, or similar relationship that involves transition.

The bottom line

It’s easy to think of creativity in terms of music or art or writing a screenplay. The truth, though, is that we’re all creative in some way or form. It’s likely that you express creativity in things you don’t even realize (how you arrange the furniture, dress yourself, or think of a way to approach a coworker).

Now the question is whether or not you’re going to exercise your creativity muscle with other aspects of your professional endeavors.