Book review: ‘Connect the Dots’ by Christian Busch
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How to benefit from increasing the serendipity in your life.
Subtitled ‘The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck’, Christian Busch’s ‘Connect the Dots’ (Penguin, £9.99, ISBN 9780241402122) has all the outward appearances of, at worst, one of those dreary airport bookshop business self-help books, or at best a 384-page statement of the obvious. But for the persistent reader there are rich rewards to be gleaned from tucking into the London School of Economics lecturer’s scientific analysis of the role chance plays in our success (or lack thereof), while proposing methods for turning good fortune into a financial fortune.
Perhaps a better term for those random events that we put down to chance or luck might be ‘serendipity’, suggests Busch. Inventions such as Nylon, Velcro, Viagra, Post-it notes, X-rays, penicillin, rubber and microwave ovens all involved serendipity. Presidents, superstars, professors, businesspeople – including many of the world’s leading CEOs – credit a large part of their success to serendipity. The obvious course of events for those wanting to bag their share of the spoils that come from blockbuster innovations and propel themselves up the management ladder is to get more serendipity into their lives. The question is how. The answer comes in Busch’s valiant attempt to take a scientific approach to a soft skill.
After quickly dismissing the notion that ‘blind luck’ is something that happens to other people and reframing the proposition as Seneca’s far more sensible idea that moments we regard as serendipitous are actually the union of preparation and opportunity, the author develops the idea that serendipity is a kind of code. If we can decipher it by connecting the dots, we take our first steps into an objective process where what we once thought of as luck transforms into the more scientific and manageable notion of advantage.
Based on more than 200 interviews with ‘lucky’ people – including dozens of entrepreneurs, innovators and CEOs – Busch’s ideas are also garnered from decades of his own research for the World Economic Forum and the World Bank. He steps into the world of successful people whose common trait is to “cultivate a force field that allowed them to have more positive life outcomes than others who started out under similar conditions.” To do this, says Busch, we need to strip ourselves from the preconceptions and practical barriers that hamper our journey towards success so that we can, “direct our learning, skills, education and training programmes towards inﬂuencing and mastering that process.”
Perhaps the most important aspect of luck in the innovation and entrepreneurial space is that it comes in the form of a solution to a problem we wanted to solve. In all fairness, we’ve known this since Aristotle said it, but if the Ancient Greek immortalised for his eureka! moment thought that way, maybe we should listen. And this is a theme that runs throughout ‘Connect the Dots’: keep an open mind, listen to others, embrace change.
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