Connect the dots to transform difficulties into opportunities

What allows us to react to adverse situations, to manage and rearrange our lives positively in the face of difficulties? It is resilience.

What is the meaning of ‘resilience’? If you research the word on Merriam-Webster dictionary, you find two definitions:

  • the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress;
  • the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

If we go back to the original meaning, we will find out that the word ‘resilience’ derives from the Latin verb ‘resilire’, which means “to jump back” or “recoil”.  Specifically, the ancients used it with particular reference to the ability of getting back into the scull after flipping, so a metaphor to indicate the ability to resist in difficult situations reacting promptly in the face of any difficulty.

Resilience is widely used in the lexicon of material science and engineering to indicate the ability of a material to resist impacts by absorbing their energy and release that energy as it springs back to its original shape. The recovery that occurs in this phenomenon can be viewed as analogous to a person’s ability to bounce back after a jarring setback. When it comes to human being, resilience is all about a series of characteristics and factors that allow the individuals to absorb shocks and external impacts, reacting constructively to regain stability.

Resilient people understand that life is full of challenges and nevertheless they remain open, flexible, and willing to adapt to change, as they have the particular ability to develop their own potential during the turbulence of life and to learn from any defeats and pains, transforming difficulties into opportunities and limits into resources. Resilience absolutely requires problem-solving, the process of finding solutions to difficult or complex issues, and also the ability to take creative – and at times  even innovative – approaches to reality. When a crisis emerges, resilient individuals are able to calmly look at the problem and envision a successful solution – which is often an innovative one – as they use their own critical and creative thinking to find new solutions to the problems they face.

Creativity and creative thinking are strictly connected and related to resilience as they thrive on challenges, problems, issues and breakage points. In the absence of a problem to resolve or an inefficient process to reinvent creativity and creative thinking may struggle, whilst they flourish when there is some form of resistance to push against.

To the challenges of change, resilient individuals respond with flexibility – overturning the reasoning, often starting from the furthest point possible to take on different perspectives – and a sort of creativity, being able to abandon any fixed mindset to enter the “laterality” of thinking and generate new solutions to problems.

This is how resilience and creativity are intertwined: lateral thinking offers individuals that flexibility capable of generating a quantity of alternatives to face a problem by putting all the resources at stake. Whilst most “fixed” minds usually provide only one solution to a problem, innovative minds suggest that there are many alternatives to each single problem. It is thanks to the lateral thinking that some individuals have acquired and refined over the years which allow them to get rid of any cognitive rigidity which stifles other people’s mind and helps them gain new perspectives leading to new solutions.

How do you face a problem? Rigidity or flexibility? Fixed mindset or lateral thinking? Let’s play a game.

Nine dots are arranged in a 3×3 grid. The challenge is to connect all nine dots, without lifting the pencil from the paper, using the fewest possible number of straight lines (four or less). Do you want to try to solve the problem?

Most people can’t solve the problem even after racking their brains for several minutes. That is because most individuals self-impose a rule the problem itself hasn’t imposed — they assume the lines may not extend beyond the boundary formed by the 3×3 grid thinking that lines should only start and finish within the square formed by the 9 dots. This hypothesis makes the puzzle impossible to solve.

In reality the square itself does not exist and it is only part of a rigid logical scheme applied by the individual which therefore encloses the system of possible solutions within that limit.

In order to solve the problem, we must get rid of that logical scheme and think creatively, literally outside the box. In this specific case, we should consider the fact that there is space outside the hypothetical square and the drawn lines can start or finish outside the 3×3 grid. If we keep this in mind, we will be able find many different solutions to this puzzle.

The analogy with real life situations is evident – when we get trapped or feel stuck in a difficult situation, it is only by questioning the assumption, using our lateral thinking and connecting the dots, that can help us find the way out.

One final thought.

Steve Jobs once described creative thinking as “connecting the dots,” adding, “most people don’t have enough dots to connect because they haven’t had many diverse experiences.” That’s certainly not the case of many people, especially the more resilient ones, who have handled so many conflicts, bouncing back from so many setbacks and failures, and coping with so many difficult situations, that they have “collected” many dots over the years.

Thanks to the many “dots” collected during their lives, they can respond to the challenges of change with flexibility and with a more creative approach, and eventually are able to generate innovative solutions.

My personal invite to all readers is to be open, become resilient to any setbacks, take risks, experience, collect as many dots as possible, then push yourselves outside your comfort zone and collect even more. Never stop growing your collection of dots so you will be able to connect the right dots at the right time and transform difficulties into opportunities.


Written by Marta Bellamoli, Marketing Co-ordinator

Ps. This is the third of a series of insights that we have been posting periodically. Please see the first insight here and the second one here. Stay tuned for the next episode! 


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