I have my students collect “Dots” or experiences as described by Steve Jobs in his memorable Stanford Commencement address. These experiences are to be things they are not required to do but something they choose to do they would not do otherwise. I encourage you to listen to his speech, especially his first story about the value and importance of collecting “Dots” or experiences in life. He explains that we can’t know the value of an experience when they happen but must believe in their value because “…you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards…”
The “Dots” Jobs describes are experiences and he suggests they have value. Dr. W. Edwards Deming however said older people better understand because they have had more experiences to compare. By this he was saying we are better able to improve when we have more data (experiences) to compare. I talked about this concept in the previous post: What did I used to do with all My time?
Deming also insisted that experience without theory isn’t worth anything because you don’t learn. By that he was saying you can’t know what could or should have happened because the novel experience is not being compared to anything else. A theory predicts what is expected to happen. In this way a theory provides something, an expected outcome, to compare to the experience. Comparing what happens to what is expected gives us information about what we can do to improve an outcome.
For instance I was in water aerobics class with a trained exercise instructor, but shet had never done water aerobics. Even though she was trained, she did not know what to do automatically, she had to adapt what she knew to this situation. Previous experiences are helpful because they provide a lot of information on how to create something new. The more experiences or “Dots” collected in life, the more a persons capacity to generate a useful creative, adapted solution. Of course the original solution is not likely optimal but it does create a base from which to improve. How well we are able to adapt is related to our previous, relatable experiences.
Creativity is also vital. Range or the range of our experiences, as explained by David Epstein in RANGE: WHY GENERALISTS TRIUMPH IN A SPECIALIZED WORLD, documents how and why more experiences enable people to come up with better and more creative solutions than those who specialized. In other words, a range of experiences will feed creativity which is vital because…
Intelligence looks for what is known to solve problems. Creativity looks for what is unknown to discover possibilities. – Simon Sinek
This is important because…
“Creating is different from problem solving. As long as there is problem to focus on, we spend time and resources making new policies and fixing what is broken. As long as there is a problem that has been fixed, there will emerge in its place yet another problem to be fixed.” – Marienne Chism, “No Drama Leadership”
“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”
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