A friend of mine who recently visited this blog made the observation that I make a lot of reference to sports. I thought this was kind of cool because he noticed it, and understood what I was trying to convey. This is an important observation, because as we’ve mentioned before, one of the key skills that distinguishes innovators is the ability to ‘associate’, to make connections across seemingly unrelated questions, problems or ideas.
For me, it’s very easy to see connections between sports and other areas because I’ve been watching, playing and studying sports since the day I was born. The way I see it, is sports is the highest form of competition because it requires both physical, and, mental prowess, which are also required in everything else. We can learn a lot about the connection between sports and business because athletes push themselves to the limits, they try to get better everyday, they find ways to motivate themselves, they make their teammates better, and, therefore their team better.
See the connection with business?
For you, it might not be sports, it can be cooking, quilting, hiking, reading, writing, riding or anything that you’re deeply passionate about. The real challenge is to see connections between what you’re highly interested in, and something you’re not. But once you break that barrier, you’ll find almost everything interesting.
If this seems strange, it isn’t. The key, is to introduce randomness into your routines and your thinking by exposing yourself to new stuff, and, then relating that to whatever it is you need an idea for.
Whether we like it or not, the process of innovation is dictated by random combinations of different concepts. Ideas are everywhere and it’s up to us to see the connections between one field and another that might yield a new insight, a new perspective or a new angle on things. Overall, the ability to associate is the most important skill we should master because new ideas aren’t created without connecting problems or ideas in ways that they haven’t been connected before.