Just off a transatlantic flight, with jet lag and tired eyes, I spent a few hours in a student flat on a Sunday morning contributing to a new world record – in dot-to-dot puzzles! What was the fascination for participants – friends and family of the world record challenger? Support, of course; you don’t turn down a friend or family member without a good excuse. There was however something bigger and more compelling. The chance at being part of setting up a new world record appeals to our competitive nature and sense of “winning” on completion. Not only that, once started, there was a noticeable determination to keep going to the next dot and the next .. until at least some part milestone had been achieved, like finishing to the next hundred or thousand, or a recognisable image. With some relief you were able to give your tired eyes a rest in the satisfaction that you had played your part towards the completion of something greater and that the next person would take up where you had left off and do their bit too. Tangible in the room was a mood of calm concentration and friendly camraderie with young people I had never met before.
What can we transfer from all this to the workplace? I think there is plenty of organisational learning here. Firstly we had someone (the leader) with a compelling vision, the determination to succeed and a plan. He researched, practiced, organised and persuaded to get the resources (both material and in person) together on the day. Supporters were willing and available for his cause, the instructions were clear and easy to follow, posted for all to see. The operation was well-timed and coordinated – not too many people at once, and not for too long. Wellbeing was catered for (plenty of refreshments and cake). The stretch goal was SMART* (to complete the whole map connecting over 12,000 dots within the day). The results were documented while the work was in progress. People were thanked for their contributions, publicly in writing, in the follow-up report. The project was successful.
Connecting dots to create a recognisable image fulfills the subconscious human need for pattern recognition and completion. When clarity is lacking (regarding purpose, our role, the bigger picture) we become frustrated, lack motivation and don’t perform at our best. We are equally dissatisfied when have started something that is interrupted and we can’t bring it to satisfactory closure. We are hard-wired for connection and yet we don’t always notice when we are “out of connection”. Apart from regular practice with dot-to-dot puzzles, what do we need to do to satisfy our need for connection and in particular to become more conscious connectors in our work?
Read more about the new world record here:
*SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely