Connecting the Dots: Creativity and Innovative Thinking


August 29, 2023

Creativity is a skill that opens doors to exciting possibilities. But, unlocking your creative potential takes more than raw talent. 

The key to success is to develop a strong mental network. We have to nourish our daily lives with a diverse range of experiences, knowledge, and exposure to new ideas. 

Are you an aspiring artist? A budding accountant? A business executive? Whoever you are, you need to nurture your creative potential. 

Let’s take a look at how important it is to experience the world around you, so you can connect the dots and fuel your creativity and innovative thinking.

Quick Takeaways

  • Research shows that 73% of creative people believe that creativity can be taught
  • “Dots” represent everyday experiences, knowledge, and exposure to new ideas
  • Expanding your collection of “dots” has the power to ignite your innovative thinking 
  • Seeking diverse experiences, reading, and exposing yourself to imaginative ideas will enhance your creative potential 

Discover how connecting the dots can unlock possibilities and invite exciting opportunities

What are “dots”?

Research shows that 73% of creative people believe that creativity can be taught. 

That’s because it stems from our ability to “connect the dots”. These “dots” represent our everyday experiences, knowledge, and exposure to new ideas. 

Remember the old elementary school “connect-the-dots” activity? By following the sequence of numbered points correctly, you would reveal a fun illustration. 

This is the same idea. Except now, each dot represents an inspirational experience, and reveals a new creative idea instead of an illustration.

graphic shows connect the dots activity

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But there’s also a catch – in order to connect the dots, you have to find them first and pay attention to their potential meaning.

If you let these experiences pass you by without paying attention to them, you’ll miss out on inspiration for new creative ideas. 

Innovative people constantly fill their lives with inspirations that lead them to new perspectives. Because of this, they have a strong mental network that lets them dive into endless possibilities. 

Believe it or not, masters of innovation have lived by different versions of this idea for decades. 

Benjamin Franklin and his 5-hour rule

Every day, Monday through Friday, Benjamin Franklin dedicated one hour to education and self-improvement. He believed in the power of learning something new every day. He had a hunch that making time to expand what he knew would pay off. 

sketch of Benjamin Franklin

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Ben would divide his hour into several activities, like:

  • Reading
  • Meditating
  • Experimenting
  • Engaging in meaningful conversations

By investing time in his own personal development, Ben was able to connect the dots. He actively invited new ways of thinking, and was pretty much a genius in many areas throughout his life. 

Jeff Hoffman and info-sponging

Global entrepreneur, billionaire, and Founder of, Jeff Hoffman, is another example of someone who knows how to connect the dots. Except, he calls it something different. 

Jeff named this technique “info-sponging”. He talks about it as a way of taking time every day to learn something outside of your industry or business. To become a sponge for new and different information.

Each day, he would make a small note of things that stood out to him. Then, at the end of every month, he would look through all of his notes. 

Jeff quickly learned that this method worked as a way to spark new ideas.

How to fuel creativity and innovative thinking

When you notice new ideas on a daily basis, it’s easier to see opportunities for ways to test them in your own world. 

This applies to anyone who wants to become a more creative thinker– because no matter what you do for work, you are meant to take advantage of innovative thinking. 

By constantly collecting dots, you can tap into inspiration from anywhere and use it to come up with ideas for anything. 

Ready to get started? Here’s my five-step Wheel of Innovation process to fuel your creativity and supercharge your innovative thinking.


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1. Observe

Great innovators start the process by keeping their eyes peeled. It’s so easy for us to zone out and just focus on what’s right in front of us. 

But when you catch yourself in a daze and hit the pause button, you can take a breather and really soak up your environment. That’s when you’ll start to see the world through a new lens and see things that are right in front of you, but you’ve always missed. 

2. Distill 

Take a good hard look at what you’ve observed, and start to notice patterns. These patterns have meaning and you connect the dots between the world around you and the work that you do.

3. Relate

Next, really look at the patterns you’ve noticed and think about how they relate to the work that you do. 

It all starts with taking ideas from the world around you and asking yourself,  “How might we  create a version of this that relates to our situation?” Then, you can make a meaningful connection between your outside world experiences and your work. 

4. Generate

New ideas need a fuel source to sprout and grow. That’s what the three steps leading up to  generating ideas do. They fuel your brainstorm and strategy sessions with inspiration and fresh perspectives, 

5. Pitch

People stress out over putting a pitch together. But the great part about the Wheel of Innovation is that by the time you get to the pitch, you’ve already done the work! Because a pitch is the story of the journey of your idea. What did you observe? What patterns did you see? How did that relate to your situation? And how did that inspire your idea? There’s your pitch. 

Harness the power of creativity and innovative thinking

Creativity and innovative thinking start with connecting the dots from the world around you with the work that you do every day. By actively looking for new experiences, new things to learn, and ideas, you can nurture your creative potential and become prolific innovators. Are you ready to start connecting the dots? As the world’s leading Innovation Architect, I can help. Email me and let’s talk about how I can help you turn your dot collection into innovative thinking!

About Carla

Carla Johnson Innovation Creativity Speaker Author

Carla Johnson helps leaders who are often paralyzed by traditional thinking. They suffer from slow growth, an eroding competitive advantage, low employee engagement, and depleted investor confidence. Their teams lack purpose and progress and constantly battle a resistance to change and new ideas.

As the world’s leading innovation architect, Carla’s spent 20 years helping leaders shatter limits and discover undiscovered possibilities. Through years of research, she’s developed a simple, scalable 5-step process that teaches people how to consistently produce inspired ideas that lead to uncommon outcomes.