Connecting the Dots: Looking Forward


Most of the times, Steve says, we can only connect the dots looking backward. But sometimes, we come across people who can connect the dots looking forward as well. These are the ones who have a vision for the future.

Connecting the dots looking forward is like looking into a starry sky, and from all the innumerable dots, seeing a coherent picture in a small group of them, and naming a constellation.

A few weeks back, I was speaking at the Indian Institute of Management at Bangalore to a group of alumni. We were speaking about something called “connecting the dots”.

Steve Jobs spoke about it eloquently when addressing students at Stanford University and showed how one thing in your life always leads to the other – how his biological Mother’s obsession led him to attend college, drop out, attend only the classes he chose, which led that to his interest in calligraphy, which in turn became a differentiating factor about Apple. When the events unfurled, he had little idea of how it would all come together. Each valuable step was a piece of the jigsaw puzzle of his life.

So, there is a larger meaning to everyone’s past and current situation – sometimes happy and sometimes difficult. Yet, it is all a run-up to something larger, something yet to happen. Most of the times, Steve says, we can only connect the dots looking backward. But sometimes, we come across people who can connect the dots looking forward as well. These are the ones who have a vision for the future. It may be a personal vision or an organizational one. Once they build that vision, it develops a life of its own; it attracts other people who commit to a shared vision and go on to build a vision community.

Here is a man I know who can connect the dots looking forward. I have written about him in my book, The High Performance Entrepreneur.

Captain Gorur Gopinath came out of the Army and wanted to become an organic farmer – he actually did that. During his farming days, he happened to meet an old buddy, an ex-helicopter pilot, who had quit the army and unable to find any job on the civilian street, had become a manager in a courier company. Dot. Then one day, Gopi was leading a delegation of farmers to China. On the way, he read about a young Vietnamese lady – she had fled the US occupation, migrated to overseas, grown up to become a helicopter pilot and one day, she came back to see her motherland, she cried upon seeing the devastation. She wanted to help rebuild. But what could she do? The only thing she knew how to do was fly a helicopter. But then a country like Vietnam needed infrastructure and access and there were hardly any airfields. So, she decided she would start a helicopter company there. Dot.

Gopi was very deeply stirred by the story and then it occurred to him that in many ways, India was no different than Vietnam – we had not been bombed but we had the same poor infrastructure and lack of access-ability; if Vietnam needed a helicopter company, so did India and you know what? His Army buddies, who had flown the choppers all their lives, were becoming managers in courier companies! Dot. Gopi connected them all and that is how Deccan Aviation was born.

One day, he was flying a chopper to Goa from Bangalore and asked the pilot to fly low so he could see the ground below. As the bird whirred over the vast land, Gopi saw something you and I easily miss. In every hamlet over which he flew, he saw television antennas.

Again, he was seeing the dots.

It occurred to him that a billion Indians were not waiting to be fed and subsidized. A billion Indians could fly! The dots were connecting one more time, of economic liberalization, surging middle-class and the capacity of the ordinary Indian, even those from rural India, to fly a plane at least once in a life time.

Gopi saw the connection between volumes and pricing, people’s latent aspiration and the power of business to transform. India’s low-cost airline was born. He took Deccan to where no one had gone before – Hubli, Dharwad, Belgaum, and beyond across the length and breadth of India.

Then came the acquisition by Kingfisher; the inevitability dawned on Gopi and he knew that he was a seer more than a doer. The baby had become adult; it had outgrown him. The best interest of the entrepreneur and the organization lay, not in a fatal embrace but in separation. Again, he was connecting the dots.

And now finally, to politics! There are several dots out there: a revival of middle-class angst against lumpen politics, visionless, partisan nation building and a wary nexus between bygone forces.

He chose to fight the elections as an independent. Now let us imagine a hung Parliament. Imagine parties seeking favor from elected independents to form a government. And imagine Gopi running the aviation ministry. Connect the dots, looking ahead.

When we look at the future, we do not always correctly connect the dots. That is how Columbus, who was trying to come to India, landed up in the richest land of the last century. Not a bad failure, if you asked me.

So, going wrong can not be the reason for not attempting to connect the dots.

When we do connect the dots looking forward, we build “memories of the future”. When we succeed, we actually live in them!

This piece here is dedicated to Madhuri, who asked me at IIMB how you connect the dots and waited so patiently. Thank you Madhuri.

Comments
Ramesh Says
Monday April 20th 2009

Great post – nice to see your post after a hiatus.

Yes connecting the dots and making the future is a rare quality indeed – in many ways you and the other MindTree founders have done it yourselves.

Geetha Manichandar Says
Monday April 20th 2009

Subrotoda,

“Connecting the dots looking forward is like looking into a starry sky, and from all the innumerable dots, seeing a coherent picture in a small group of them, and naming a constellation.”

Awash with nostalgia…

This brings back a lot of great memories – of wondrous childhood days spent sitting in the Calcutta Birla Planetarium and watching with rapt attention some fantastic shows … the rich baritone of the commentator’s voice in the background…… telling us about various constellations – Orion, The Hunter, Gemini, the Twins, about the Milky Way…. an enchanting world really!

Excerpts from an article in the Business Line dated 18th April’09 – ‘Capt Gopinath enters the ring to bring change’:

“It’s not just about winning, rather it is about sending the clear message that we want change. And we first have to make the change ourselves. We are both the problem and the solution. It is our indifference that has caused the problems — corruption and communalism. Today, parties thrive in a corrupt system and every one of them divides the electorate and asks for votes.”

Capt Gopinath may not win the battle but he is confident of giving people on the chin his message of communal harmony, uniting the people and a corruption-free society. He is also hoping to get the non-voter up on his feet and voting. “After all, the largest vote bank is the people who don’t go out and vote. I have ideas, and will make sure they take on a momentum. You only need the effort to reach there and make a great idea come true.” Though not against the political system — he insists we need it, and the political parties — he wants to “wake up the political parties to the pitfalls of pursuing anti-people policies, be they communal, parochial or corrupt ones; enthuse the youth to come out and vote; and encourage people who have done well to give back by taking the lead in society…”

23rd April is just a few days away but we wait with bated breath for the verdict…. in the meanwhile, Chapeau! Captain Courageous!

Lubna Says
Monday April 20th 2009

Dear Subroto,

I apologize upfront, both to you and the other readers, for a long and boring comment. But, for the first time ever (and I hope the only time), I am a bit mixed up after reading your post.

I heard Steve’s speech over and over again and finally found a text of it as well. http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html
(I do not know how to make this url clickable)

Steve says: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Thus, when Steve took up calligraphy, he had no inkling of how it would help him at Apple. In other words, he wasn’t connecting the dots forward. He connected the dots backward, by putting to best use a skill he had learnt in the current scenario – while designing Mac.

If I understand correctly, I realize from your post, that one can say that in creating Mac, Steve was connecting the dots forward? He saw the need for a Mac – just as Capt Gopi saw the need for low cost airlines in India. Steve also saw that there was scope for animated feature films and set up Pixar – isn’t’ this also connecting the dots forward?

In other words, as I understand it: Connecting the dots forward means, finding out a gap (be it low cost airlines, or animation feature films) and fulfilling it.

Then, does connecting the dots backward mean: Utilizing an existing skill, knowledge base and putting it to the best use possible in the current scenario. Am I correct in this understanding? I would like to think so.

When it comes to connecting the dots backward, Steve prefers to use the terms destiny, karma or whatever. Or you add: “So, there is a larger meaning to everyone’s past and current situation – sometimes happy and sometimes difficult. Yet, it is all a run-up to something larger, something yet to happen”

I rather agree with you, than Steve, that it is possible to connect dots forward, perhaps not all the time, but it can be done, rather than his statement that it cannot be done.

However, I am finding it difficult to understand that there is a larger meaning to everyone’s past and current situation. Don’t our own independent actions have a larger say in our future than just situations which sometimes could be beyond our control? (For eg: Steve could have ignored his knowledge of calligraphy while designing the Mac even if he did take up the calligraphy course). Or perhaps I have wrongly understood what you and Steve are trying to state, in this regard.

I also realize when it comes to this issue, I have a closed mind. I even hated the book – The Secret which sort of propounded that we should wish for something and leave everything else to the forces of the Universe to grant this wish. Guess I believe a lot on individual action. Maybe time alone shall teach me to be wiser, it has taught me a few lessons but there are many more to learn.

Best regards,
Lubna

    Geetha Manichandar Says
    Tuesday April 21st 2009

    Dear Lubna,

    This is the analogy that comes to my mind about the ‘comments space’ : “The World Replies….”

    It is a beautiful garden which is nourished by the Gardener himself and the colourful plants in it are all of us – the readers who wait anxiously and eagerly every time for the Gardener’s visit – we know not as to when he will come to tend to us but we know for sure that he will come and when He comes, he ‘lovingly brings a piece of his world’ for us! Our fertile minds get ignited and we listen with rapt attention when he talks to us about various things…..

    And between his visits, we, the plants, talk to each other and exchange ideas and views amongst ourselves. The day he comes and leaves, there is a flurry of activity in the garden. The plants are very happy and they talk almost non-stop like excited children. Sometimes their views are similar, sometimes they disagree with each other but the general harmony is preserved and there is a lot of learning that happens. This goes on for a few days and then the waiting game begins anew in contemplative silence……

    And I would love to quote Marcel Proust here and say a big ‘thank you’ to our dear Gardener:

    “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

    Regards.

    Geetha

      Lubna Says
      Friday April 24th 2009

      Very well said, Geetha. Thank you.

    Anupam Tandon Says
    Thursday May 21st 2009

    Hi,

    Every thing gets created twice – once inside and then outside. You say your actions define your future. But don’t you think there is something greater which molds your action? By and large, I think the pattern of your memory [which is largely influenced by your karma again- both collective and individual] directs your actions.
    There are several ways in which a dot can be connected backward. Some simple examples are as follows:
    Small baby which is in the womb of its mother gets affected by moods and habits of its mother. Many a times, should the kid be a saint or a robber is determined then. During our evolution genes too evolve as per our lifestyle and thinking [individual and collective karma] which further decide to a certain extent the destiny of forthcoming generation.

    It is not that dots are fixed. It is just like there are several dots as in the children game. You can connect them to make a roaring lion or a squeaking rat. Steve, after all his sincere efforts, made it a roaring lion. I think that is what he is saying in his speech. Connecting the dots.

    Subroto da has gone one step further from Steve bro and coined this wonderful phrase “Creating Memory of the Future”. In one of the book reading sessions, I had asked Subroto a question on “Creating Memory of the Future” [This phrase has been used in his book “Go Kiss the World”]. The answer has become clearer to me today after reading this post. It means nothing but “Being architect of your own destiny”. Or in other words visualization, affirmation and internalization of one’s own destiny. Having instincts to see the dots matching your skill sets and connecting them. What you think, so you become. Dots are all there. Just you should be able to connect right dots. If you are connecting dots of the future that would mean you are connecting them in your memory. That would mean you have insights and abilities to see the dots.

    Now as you say, “when it comes to this issue, I have a closed mind. I even hated the book – “, I would like to request you to read “The Power of Subconscious Mind” by Joseph Murphy. It could be helpful.

    If you don’t believe what I am saying, just keep on saying to your self 2000 times “I am more than what I believe I am… all the world’s strength and power rests inside me”… you will start seeing some visible changes in your life.. trust me. Also this is clue to the rich heritage of the Mantra chanting and repetition in the Hindu Tradition.

    I think Subroto da and Steve bro are trying to emphasize on this point.

    Thanks,
    Anupam

      Lubna Says
      Friday June 5th 2009

      Hi Anupam,

      Thanks for your post. I agree with your statement: “One should have instincts to see the dots, math your skills sets and connect them. ” This to me is an independent individual action, which I strongly believe in.

      As I said earlier, Steve could have ignored what he learnt from his calligraphy course, he did not. Thus it was his own ability to connect the dots and utilise his skill that resulted in Mac’s success.

      Perhaps it was “karma” that made him take up the course, but it was his own individual action that enabled him to apply his knowledge.

      Hence, I would give greater weightage to ones’ own individual action. Thanks for suggesting Joseph Murphy’s book, I will try and find it.

      Best regards,
      Lubna

    Anupam Tandon Says
    Thursday May 21st 2009

    Hi Lubna,

    Above reply by me was for you.

    Thanks,
    Anupam

Manoj Says
Monday April 20th 2009

With all due respect Mr. Bagchi,

Here, I do not find your argument to be convincing though philosophical!

Aliya Sayed Says
Tuesday April 21st 2009

Great Post , i enjoyed reading it.And i completely agree with you.
I came across your blog through Google as i was trying to reach you after
reading the awesome book of yours “Go Kiss the World”.
Your experiences have inspired me alot — Just wrote to say thanx

Tuesday April 21st 2009

I would like to comment on connecting the dots. I find it more than a coincidence that I posted the Steve Jobs Stanford video on my site March 26th, 2009 and found the MindTree site today.

Here is my own experience of the Dots connecting which I hope will help other readers to perhaps find their own inner connection to “how this Dot stuff works!”

The past Dots start to really connect when you are “Aware” and operating your mind in the “Now”. I had done The Secret stuff etc, but what really connected me to the awareness factor was when I spiritually aligned with my inner being through daily meditation and prayer. It was then that I started to acknowledge that I was not really in command of what was happening in my life there was a higher intelligence force in action (heARTificial Intelligence!). I just needed to “Listen”, “Assimilate” and then “Act”.

An example of how some DOTS aligned for me:
– I was going to quit my job a year ago, had another job lined up.
– As I was about to hand my resignation, my “intuition” said WAIT. I thought odd, but OK.
– I waited a week and the management offered me a package.
– I walked out of a job I was going to quit anyway with a year salary.
– The other job never transpired because I was not aligned from my heart for a JOB, I was seeking my own business.

My sister reminded me that in September prior year I had “said” the following to her:
1) If I could grow plants in my garden
2) Cook really nice meals for my children
3) Enjoy my brand new house I had built FOR ONE YEAR, I would love to do that.

March – 6 months later, I get a ONE YEAR package to figure out life! I had a blast, traveled, cooked, loved my family and friends, enjoyed my garden and house and really connected with my Inner Power.

March 2009, I launched my company, United StarMinds International.
A company that empowers people to connect to their “intuitive skills” where all life’s answers lie. Past, Present and Future. But you need to be in tune with the inner system. Note, in my request I did not seek money I asked for the things that would be JOY and Happiness including to others. That is critical to note. It is in the serving of others you receive what you need.

How do the DOTS continue. I have realized when “Awakened” and connected to your spiritual nature, Life will guide you. Everything I did in the past has a DOT to be connected with the present and involves the future.

My advice to everyone would be really get centered and connected to the whole of life from within. We are all ONE, understand this (nature, animals, humans). Know that your life is part of a magical process unraveling. It will all come together full circle at some point. You will then laugh and cry with joy.

I look deeper into many life situations now. Why would a seed be put into my head for XYZ idea, solution and what is the REAL interpretation for its use. Case example, mobile communication companies. Wonderful phones, great content, youth with phones, SMS morning till night, addictive somewhat and profitable businesses for operators but so what? What is the BIGGER interpretation of the need for the vast communication technology. There is an answer, I am connecting the Dots and now waiting for the right combination of StarMinds to connect with.

Wishing You All Illumination & Empowerment!
Mandip

Geetha Manichandar Says
Thursday April 23rd 2009

Dear Subrotoda,

Posted my earlier comments more than once and am sorry about that.

Did Mother Teresa’s ‘personal vision’ help her to ‘connect the dots looking forward’? You have said : “Once they build that vision, it develops a life of its own; it attracts other people who commit to a shared vision and go on to build a vision community.” Was that how Missionaries of Charity was formed please?

Thanks and regards,

Geetha

Tuesday April 28th 2009

Dear Subroto Da,

Another Awesome jewl from you :)
Thanks a lot for the inspiring tale.

Joydip

Veena Says
Friday May 15th 2009

Dear Sir,

I am a New Mind at Mindtree. On Reading the Blog I felt like penning a few words.

I feel to be inline with organizational goal one has to feel the pulse of the creators of the organization and their vision. I am currently reading your book on how MindTree was formed and feel proud of making the right choice.

To add to the concept on DOTS, I believe in destiny and would define DOTS as “Destiny Of Two Souls” to get connected and make a difference.

Thanks and looking forward to a wonderful career at Mindtree
Rgds
Veena Bharadwaj

Anupam Says
Thursday May 28th 2009

Very nice article by Subroto. I am jotting down some of my understandings.

Every thing gets created twice – once inside and then outside. We say our actions define our future. But there is something greater which molds our action. By and large, I think the pattern of our memory [which is largely influenced by your karma again- both collective and individual] directs our actions.

There are several ways in which a dot can be connected backward. Some simple examples are as follows: Small baby which is in the womb of its mother gets affected by moods and habits of its mother. Many a times, should the kid be a saint or a robber is determined then. During our evolution genes too evolve as per our lifestyle and thinking [individual and collective karma] which further decide to a certain extent the destiny of forthcoming generation.

It is not that dots are fixed. It is just like there are several dots as in the children game. You can connect them to make a roaring lion or a small rat. Steve, after all his sincere efforts, made it a roaring lion. I think that is what he is saying in his speech. Connecting the dots. But he came to realize of this once the Lion was made.

Subroto has gone one step further from Steve and coined this wonderful phrase “Creating Memory of the Future”. This means able to see the pattern before hand. In one of the book reading sessions, I had asked Subroto a question on “Creating Memory of the Future” [This phrase has been used in his book “Go Kiss the World”]. The answer has become still more clearer to me today after reading this post. It means nothing but “Being architect of your own destiny”. Or in other words visualization, affirmation and internalization of one’s own destiny. It could also mean having instincts to see the dots matching your skill sets and connecting them. What you think, so you become. Dots are all there. We should be able to connect right dots. If you are connecting dots of the future that would mean you are connecting them in your memory. That would mean you have insights and abilities to see the dots.

“The Power of Subconscious Mind” by Joseph Murphy can help us understand on how the memory of the future can be created.

Thanks,
Anupam

Sneha Says
Saturday November 5th 2011

Very inspiring article !! Thank you !

  • Pingback: Connecting the dots - present and future | hrchitects.net

  • Sunday September 21st 2014

    If some one wishes to be updated with most recent technologies then he must be pay a
    visit this website and be up to date all
    the time.

    Thursday May 28th 2015

    Sometimes a person has to replay a message several
    times before getting everything they need on paper.
    Before setting out to look for the loans, you need to first
    look at your credit score and determine how bad it is.

    Squidoo was created by world renowned business marketing guru Seth Godin and is its own marketing machine.

    Thursday May 28th 2015

    This is the new era of commercialism, people do not want to waste time or
    energy on looking for services, the fast internet term query brings up results that could
    end up being an actual request shortly afterwards, fill in a couple of fields and press a send button, you will have the local business call you the
    next day and set up a visit. Networked – Blogs – Bring your blog to Facebook,
    and Facebook to your blog. Start by aiming to increase the web traffic to
    your website, once you’ve conquered that, move onto another goal.

    Thursday May 28th 2015

    An employee could restart this scenario with a
    new set of customer payments and accounts.
    One of the principal issues that mompreneur faces is learning how to find work life balance between the requirements of
    her children and the needs of her business. How can you
    take care of your clients when you’re unable to take care of yourself.

    Friday May 29th 2015

    If a business wants to get fast in their
    industry they need to use file sharing program to facilitate that speed.
    ” The fact is, writers and reporters are always on the lookout for “sources,” especially at the local level. Rules, laws, and regulations are a part of business ownership.

    Monday August 31st 2015

    Great web site. A lot of helpful information here.

    I’m sending it to some pals and additionally sharing in delicious.
    And naturally, thank you on your effort!

    s6x.it Says
    Wednesday September 2nd 2015

    I do consider all the ideas you’ve offered on your post.

    They are very convincing and can certainly work. Nonetheless, the posts
    are too quick for newbie’s. May you please extend them a bit from subsequent time?
    Thanks for the post.

    Sunday September 6th 2015

    I went over this site and I conceive you have a lot of wonderful
    info, saved to my bookmarks (:.

    Thursday November 26th 2015

    Thanks for syaring your thoughts on seo software solutions
    limited. Regards

    Friday December 4th 2015

    When an on-camera flash is used to take a portrait, it oftfen taints the photography by
    turning the subject’s eyes bright red. Motors are mechanical components and consume a lot of power whhen used.
    5 ounces), hhas various manual settings, with an advanced image processor.
    Whijle photographers continues to debate the Nikon vs Canon issue, my belief is that it is a moot point.

    It looked similar to a small appliance than the compact models we are used to nowadays.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Latest Posts
    Books