Belle Beth Cooper has written a terrific column for Fast Company on the topic of creativity. She writes, "Knowledge alone is not useful unless we can make connections between what we know...
Lots of great writers, artists and scientists have talked about the importance of collecting ideas
and bits of knowledge from the world around us, and making connections
between those dots to fuel creative thinking and new ideas." She quotes a wide variety of innovators and scientists, ranging from Steve Jobs to Maria Popova, on this topic. For instance, she cites Cambridge University professor W. I. B. Beveridge, who once wrote, "Originality often consists in linking up ideas whose connection was not previously suspected."
Cooper offers some tips on how to become more adept at making connections:
1. Read... a lot! Read widely - look beyond your specific area of expertise and investigate novel domains of knowledge. Seek out novel experiences more generally, so as to gather knowledge from disparate disciplines.
2. Take notes... a lot! Keep a notebook with you at all times, and jot down observations and insights throughout the day. Don't count on your memory amidst a hectic schedule in your personal and professional life.
3. Review your notes... a lot! In fact, she recommends reviewing your notes every day. Look for patterns, and seek out connections between seemingly disparate ideas. Identify areas that you would like to further investigate.