In an increasingly complex world, understanding the connections between people and ideas is crucial. AIQ looks at how organisations can put connected thinking into practice.

20 minute read

The next time you pick up your smartphone – or switch on your television, take a digital photograph, or send an email – spare a thought for Bell Labs.

Based in a campus of glass-fronted buildings in New Jersey, surrounded by lawns kept neat by grazing deer, Bell Labs was the brains trust that lay behind the success of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), the US conglomerate that dominated the telecommunications industry for much of the 20th century.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates once said that if he had access to a time machine, his first stop would be Bell Labs in December 1947

A series of revolutionary innovations, from radar to lasers, solar cells to communications satellites, started here. Microsoft founder Bill Gates once said that if he had access to a time machine, his first stop would be “Bell Labs in December 1947”, so he could witness the invention of the transistor, building block of every electrical gadget in the modern world.1

What was the company’s secret? The answer can be summed up in two words: connected thinking. Bell Labs was in the business of connections – its first task was to develop a transcontinental phone line – but it also grasped the importance of the more intangible links between people and concepts. With its interdisciplinary approach and free-form organisational structures, Bell Labs was able to mint new ideas at the rate other companies churn out widgets.

It was a case of the right people, in the right place, in the right environment, working on the right problem

“What grew out of the research department was a sort of internal energy, with people combining their ideas,” says Jon Gertner, author of The Idea Factory, a bestselling history of Bell Labs. “The silicon solar cell was created by a few people who came together serendipitously. It was a case of the right people, in the right place, in the right environment, working on the right problem.”

Spotting connections

Bell Labs’ influence waned in the 1980s when AT&T’s monopoly ended and its research teams were broken up. But its half-century period of collaborative innovation contains valuable lessons for companies today. In an increasingly complex and specialised economy, connected thinking has never been more important.

The most influential research tends to come from research teams that work across disciplines to survey problems from different angles

One indication of this is that individual experts are no longer able to dominate their chosen field as they once did. Consider science, technology, engineering and mathematics. In the 1960s, it was common for a STEM paper authored by a single academic to rack up citations. Nowadays, single-author papers are more-or-less unheard of; the most influential research tends to come from research teams that work across disciplines to survey problems from different angles.2

The same is true for other technical fields, including finance, where spotting the relationships between assets, markets and economic data is a critical skill. How will ageing demographics affect European property valuations? What will be the impact of the US-China trade war on Vietnam’s GDP? How will Amazon’s move into prescription medication affect share prices among health insurance companies? Answering these questions requires teams of experts that are able to work together to understand how each moving piece interacts with the others.

“Connected thinking is absolutely at the heart of what it means to be a macro investment manager,” says Euan Munro, CEO of Aviva Investors. “You would have to be a megalomaniac to believe you alone have the best insight into all the possible investment opportunities around the world. You need to listen to experts throughout your organisation and understand what they’re seeing. Bringing together those observations to identify opportunities and risks is the key.”

Investors routinely fail to notice connections between companies

While the benefits are clear, connected thinking can be hard to get right. Academic research has proved investors routinely fail to notice connections between companies, even when those connections are economically simple – the relationship between a customer and a supplier, for instance – and publicly disclosed. Lucrative opportunities are being missed.3

In this article we explore how companies can put connected thinking into practice, drawing on examples from finance, technology, architecture and sport. As we will see, connected thinking is not just an organisational imperative – it may present solutions to some of the most serious challenges facing the world today.

We’ll use Bell Labs’ four-step principle as our guide. For connected thinking to work, you need the right people, in the right place, in the right environment, working on the right problem.

Part one: People

  • Organisations need both generalists and specialists
  • Analogies from other disciplines can spark ideas
  • Taking the ‘outside view’ can mitigate the risks of siloed thinking

Where do new ideas come from? Perhaps you are picturing the lone genius poring over a notebook or a petri dish. In fact, great ideas are more often the result of networks and collaboration than an individual’s eureka moment.

Take Charles Darwin, whose theory of evolution reshaped humanity’s understanding of itself. Although his famous voyage on the HMS Beagle in the 1830s yielded crucial discoveries, Darwin did surprisingly little experimental research himself. But he had an ace up his sleeve: a network of pen pals.

Darwin's great theory of the interconnectedness of life was itself a classic example of connected thinking

A prolific letter writer, Darwin combined his own insights with the knowledge he gained from hundreds of correspondents across the world: geologists, ornithologists, amateur botanists. He would cut out passages from these letters and paste them into his notebooks to develop his ideas. His great theory of the interconnectedness of life was itself a classic example of connected thinking.4

In his book Range, author David Epstein identifies Darwin as a generalist, as opposed to a specialist. Once an aspiring clergyman, Darwin took up science relatively late and distinguished himself as a “lateral-thinking integrator”, whose genius derived from his roving curiosity and talent for synthesising existing ideas.

Epstein argues Darwin’s success contains a lesson for modern business, where hiring policies tend to favour focused experts rather than applicants with broader CVs. Such policies persist despite evidence high-performing executives usually have a breadth of professional experience. In a recent study of 459,000 members, social media company LinkedIn found individuals who had worked across a range of job functions were more likely to rise through the ranks to the C-suite.5

Depth of knowledge remains important but organisations need generalists too

This is not to say companies should do away with specialists. Depth of knowledge remains important, especially in technical industries. The point is that organisations need generalists too: people who are adept at spotting overlooked parallels and unexpected continuities. Demis Hassabis, founder and CEO of technology company DeepMind, refers to these individuals as “glue people”, arguing their interdisciplinary abilities are vital in making sure teams work collaboratively.6

Such individuals are of particular value in large and complex organisations where individual experts may find themselves toiling at cross-purposes, unaware of each other’s work –“digging parallel trenches”, as one influential scientist has put it.7 Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Lew Platt wryly summed up how this problem can affect a company’s bottom line: “If HP knew what HP knows,” he said, “we would be three times more profitable.”

By moving fluidly across departments, generalists can spot connections and help avoid the parallel trench problem. When he founded manufacturing firm W.L. Gore & Associates in 1958, Bill Gore drew on his experience that organisations do their most creative work during crises, when traditional hierarchies and silos break down. He devised a flat, porous organisational structure known as a “lattice”, in which individuals are empowered to rove across different teams to accomplish their tasks without having to report to conventional chains of command. This approach yielded breakthrough inventions such as the waterproof fabric Gore-Tex.8

Taking the outside view

Dedre Gentner, professor of psychology at Northwestern University, points out another advantage of the generalist: the ability to spot structural similarities between concepts and scenarios. Simply put, the generalist can use analogies to identify solutions to problems.

Analogies can come from unexpected places. Studying philosophy at university in the 1930s to fulfil a course requirement, a budding engineer named Claude Shannon came across the work of George Boole, an obscure 19th century English logician who had assigned a numeric value to true statements (1) and false statements (0). Later, while working at Bell Labs, Shannon realised Boole’s logic could be applied to the workings of electronic circuits. Drawing on this insight, he and his team devised a system whereby any piece of information could be transmitted electronically – and laid the foundation for all modern computing.9

Scientists and engineers have found the natural world to be fertile ground for analogies. The self-healing properties of skin and bone have inspired “biomimetic” suspension bridges that automatically repair themselves when damaged. Velcro is modelled on the seed burrs of the Burdock plant. The porous walls of termite mounds have taught architects how to keep their buildings cool.

Analogical thinking can also be useful in finance. Aviva Investors’ Munro brought this approach to his investment process after learning of the collaborative methods employed by surgical teams in hospitals.

Analogical thinking can also be useful in finance

“The inspiration was a conversation I had with a colleague, who came from a medical family. He was describing the process on the morning of an operation: The chief surgeon, the anaesthetist, the physician and the chief nurse meet to review the patient’s charts and discuss how the day is going to go. You have all these different disciplines working together on a common problem. I realised the investment world was bad at that sort of connected thinking,” he says.

Munro took this analogy and used it to build a multi-strategy approach to macro investing that brought together asset-class specialists who customarily operated separately. He subsequently applied the same principle in other areas – at Aviva Investors, infrastructure and real estate specialists work side by side in an integrated real assets business, while equities professionals collaborate with credit experts to identify well-run companies and flag potential risks.

“Consulting with different asset-class specialists helps us identify potential opportunities,” says Stephanie Niven, a fund manager on the global equities team at Aviva Investors. “For example, we learnt from conversations with analysts in the real assets team that battery technology improvements were being made that expanded the opportunity set of data centres. We combined this with our own insight that battery technology was likely to improve further thanks to the investments being made elsewhere by the likes of electric vehicle companies and mobile phone developers.

“Equity markets appeared to be overlooking the benefits these more-efficient batteries will bring to companies across other industries, notably in wind and solar power and data management. We subsequently invested in renewable energy company NextEra Energy and data-centre operator CoreSite,” Niven adds.

Connected thinking in finance can enable teams to adopt what’s known in psychology as the outside view

Another key benefit of connected thinking in finance is it can enable teams to adopt what’s known in psychology as “the outside view”, mitigating the hazards associated with a tunnel-vision focus on a single discipline.

Consider a 2012 study in which private equity investors were asked to estimate the return on a project they were currently involved in. After submitting the figure, the investors then had to identify similar investment propositions and evaluate the potential return on those alternatives. On average, the investors estimated the return on their own project to be 50 per cent higher than the other examples; when they became aware of the discrepancy, they quickly revised their original estimates downwards. The familiarity with the details of their own projects had led them to overrate the chances of success – taking the outside view provided much-needed perspective.10

Part two: Place

  • Physical location can help or hinder connected thinking
  • Technology can improve connections among global companies
  • Connected thinking is becoming more important within and across cities

There is little point in hiring adaptable, generalist professionals if they are shut away in offices in remote locations, unable to communicate. Organisations can improve connected thinking by paying attention to the physical layout of their workspaces.

The executives at Bell Labs were keenly aware of the importance of place in facilitating innovation. At the centre of the physics wing at the company’s New Jersey campus was a 700-foot long corridor that ran past the doorways to laboratories and offices. It was deliberately designed so that “travelling its length without encountering a number of acquaintances, problems, diversions and ideas would be almost impossible”,” as Gertner writes in The Idea Factory. A scientist walking down the corridor on their way to lunch at the cafeteria “was like a magnet rolling past iron filings”.

Modern technology companies have identified other ways to bring about coincidental meetings between experts and ignite the creative spark. In 2013, as Google managers surveyed the canteens at the company’s plush San Francisco offices, they noticed staff in long queues were more likely to speak to those around them. So they devised an experiment to find out the optimal length of time baristas should spend making a coffee: long enough to promote serendipitous conversation, but not so long as to irritate employees thirsty for a caffeine hit. (The answer was four minutes.)

Tweaking workspaces can make a big difference to productivity by putting high-performing individuals into close proximity with their peers

In a similar vein, studies show that tweaking workspaces – or ‘optimising spatial management’ to use the technical phrase – can make a big difference to productivity by putting high-performing individuals into close proximity with their peers. The Kellogg School of Management found evidence of a positive spill-over from the most productive individuals to colleagues sitting in a 25-foot radius around them, boosting team-wide performance by as much as 15 per cent – the kind of result usually associated with expensive training and recruitment initiatives.11

When physical proximity is impossible, as may be the case across global organisations, technology can bridge the gap. Research shows process and networking tools improve productivity by 20-30 per cent among global software development teams.12 Communications software such as Skype or Slack can enable the sharing of ideas and the assignment of tasks. The right software might be not be the obvious choice: Aviva Investors has repurposed a system called Confluence – traditionally deployed as an IT workflow tool – to compile and circulate research, aiding international collaboration.

Connected thinking and the city

There is an important relationship between connected thinking and place on a macro scale, too. As economies continue to shift away from heavy manufacturing towards service-based sectors, knowledge networks are becoming more important than physical supply chains. Increasingly, connected thinking is distinguishing the leading cities from the laggards.

Knowledge networks are becoming more important than physical supply chains

The recent economic tilt towards “intangible” investments in design and creative talent is contributing to this trend. As the academics Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake observe in their book Capitalism Without Capital, intangible assets gain in value due to synergies and spill-overs between innovative firms. As intangible-focused companies form clusters in the same areas, they tend to hoover up the best talent from elsewhere, reshaping property market dynamics.

“Today, a city’s success is driven by its ability to facilitate knowledge exchange and information sharing to nurture idea creation,” says Vivienne Bolla, real assets research analyst at Aviva Investors. “Being part of a cluster provides companies with easier access to information and technology, while generating efficiencies in sourcing inputs such as labour.”

Being part of a cluster provides companies with easier access to information and technology

Understanding the value of such clusters is important for companies searching for the best location for their headquarters, as well as for investors who want to allocate capital to locations that will grow sustainably over the longer term. In Europe, Aviva Investors’ real assets team identifies Stockholm, Berlin, Amsterdam and Copenhagen as cities with particularly productive clusters in digital and biotech fields; London and Paris also score highly for their scale and ability to attract talent.

Grasping the connections between cities, knowledge networks and economic growth is also imperative for governments, especially as clusters can deprive less-dynamic areas of talent and investment. Building infrastructure to physically link clusters with these regions is one solution to this problem, according to Oxford economist Carl Benedikt Frey, an expert on the interplay between labour markets and technology.

Frey cites as evidence the Öresund Bridge linking post-industrial Malmö in Sweden and bustling Copenhagen. Built in 1999, the bridge revitalised the Swedish town’s economy by enabling residents to commute to higher-paying jobs in the Danish capital.

Part three: Environment

  • Inclusive meetings can facilitate a culture of participation
  • A safe environment can foster debate
  • Diverse teams outperform on complex tasks

Just as important as the physical layout of an office or the cluster of buildings in a city is the more intangible surrounding environment, or organisational culture. What does it feel like to work in a company? Are fresh ideas encouraged or shot down? Are new colleagues enthusiastically welcomed into the fold, or frostily left to their own devices?

If managers don’t listen to the makers, they are closing themselves off from creative energies

In an exclusive culture, powerful senior staff are likely to dominate discussions, with junior individuals left without an opportunity to contribute. This is short-sighted. As venture capitalist Paul Graham has observed, there are two kinds of work schedule: that of the maker, whose day is free of mandatory engagements, freeing up periods in which they can think creatively; and the manager, whose day is divided into a series of hour-long blocks dedicated to various appointments. If managers don’t listen to the makers, they are closing themselves off from these creative energies.

A good yardstick of a healthy working culture is whether meetings feel inclusive. Tabitha Alwyn, a consultant at Alliance Coaching, says creating a sense of “psychological safety” is important if everyone is to pitch in. One way of doing this is to outlaw interruptions – psychologists have observed that when a speaker is interrupted their brain goes into fight-or-flight mode, in the same way it would respond to a physical threat. Another option is to formalise the procedure for contributions so that everyone is given an equal opportunity to speak.

“We have found that opening a meeting by inviting everyone present to speak in turn – even on a relatively routine matter such as recent portfolio activity – can loosen up the group,” says Sunil Krishnan, head of multi-asset funds at Aviva Investors. “In more substantive debate it’s important to have the senior leaders speak last, so they don’t influence others.”

Vulnerable sharing... allows teams to more efficiently assign tasks and match the right people with the right problem

These inclusive principles can be carried beyond meetings into everyday conversations. The global equities team follows a principle known as “vulnerable sharing”. Derived from the work of author Brené Brown, this technique is about encouraging individuals to open up to their colleagues about their strengths and weaknesses. Such dialogue tends to facilitate an open environment that is conducive to debate. It also allows teams to more efficiently assign tasks and match the right people with the right problem, without cleaving to narrow sector specialisms.

“Teams can’t flourish together unless they have a safe environment to share,” says Stephanie Niven. “In a culture based on trust, you are free to ask questions whose answers might be assumed to be obvious – for example, a member of the team might ask why Google is a good investment. It means we can rigorously test ideas and challenge conventional wisdom.

“Much has been written about behavioural economics at a market level, but much less has been written about behaviour as it applies to investor culture within organisations. Culture is extremely significant and how decisions are made and committed to is as important, if not more important, than the decisions that are made,” Niven adds.

The diversity bonus

As Niven makes clear, asking questions and challenging received wisdom are key to connected thinking. The desire for harmony can lead to a fuzzy consensus, overriding the inclination to correct bad decisions. The result is groupthink: the dangerous tendency to follow the crowd.

One of the best ways to avoid groupthink is to ensure teams are diverse, as groupthink is more likely to arise in an environment that lacks diversity of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and social class.

Groupthink is more likely to arise in an environment that lacks diversity

In his recent book Rebel Ideas: The power of diverse thinking, Matthew Syed argues that one of the reasons the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) failed to prevent the 9/11 attacks was that the organisation was overwhelmingly white and male, and failed as a result to grasp the potent religious symbolism of Osama Bin Laden’s propaganda. A more diverse group, with more Muslim members of staff, would have better understood the threat posed by al-Qaeda.13

Diversity can also bring commercial benefits. In a recent talk at the World Economic Forum, Victoria Plaut, professor of law and social science at the University of California, Berkeley, showcased a dizzying array of research that indicates diverse teams outperform more homogenous ones in business and finance. One study looked at companies in the S&P Composite 500 Index and found gender diversity among top management predicted a US$42 million increase in firm value. A similar study of 177 US national banks found firms with more racial diversity showed enhanced performance (the effect was particularly significant among the banks working on new innovations).14

Diverse teams are better at predicting the outcome of complex systems such as markets

As social scientist Scott E. Page argues in his book The Diversity Bonus, diverse teams have a specific advantage in that they are better at predicting the outcome of complex systems such as markets. This effect is by now so well documented as to be a mathematical principle.

“Two people with the same training and experience will think about the world in similar ways and their predictions will be correlated. Here is where diversity delivers this big bonus. If we add someone whose predictions are not as good but are negatively correlated to the others, the collective prediction will be much better,” says Page.

Page cites the outcome of the Netflix Prize, a competition to find the most accurate algorithm to predict user ratings for films on the streaming service. Teams from across the world entered the contest over a period of three years between 2006 and 2009, and it accrued a prestige worth far more than the nominal US$1 million prize money. The decisive progress came in the final days of the competition, when teams that had looked to be also-rans decided to team up to beat the frontrunner. The hybrid team won handily despite the tight time-frame, submitting the winning algorithm 24 minutes before the deadline. The result proved that combining diverse models to a problem can be the most effective approach.

Charlie Munger, vice chairman of US conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway and partner to Warren Buffett, is one of the most prominent proponents of the “multiple model” framework in finance. When considering an investment, Munger applies what he calls a “latticework” of different models to ensure every dimension has been considered.

“Most people are trained in one model – economics, for example – and try to solve all the problems in one way,” as Munger once put it, in his trademark folksy style. “You know the old saying: ‘To the man with a hammer, the world looks like a nail.’ This is a dumb way of handling problems.”15

Part four: Problems

  • The investment industry remains poor at spotting connections
  • Connected thinking can yield promising investment ideas
  • Solutions to bigger challenges rely on appreciating connectedness

Bringing together all of these aspects of connected thinking – the right people, in the right place, in the right environment – can enable organisations to solve problems. In asset management, for example, marshalling global expertise to spot overlooked connections across companies and sectors holds the key to identifying opportunities.

Connected thinking allows you to build an information infrastructure that maximises the ability to capture valuable insights

“Connected thinking allows you to build an information infrastructure that maximises the ability to capture valuable insights wherever they originate from, and to deliver that intelligence to the place where it is most valuable,” says Mikhail Zverev, head of global equities at Aviva Investors.

This might sound like common sense, but research shows many investors are poor at managing and responding to information in this way. The efficient markets hypothesis – which holds that market pricing always incorporates all of the relevant available information, rendering the hunt for undervalued stocks futile – has long since been debunked by behavioural economists such as Daniel Kahneman and Richard Thaler, who have proved investors are prone to various cognitive biases that hinder rational decision-making. But the industry has yet to fully appreciate the extent to which important data goes overlooked, especially as it pertains to the connections between firms.

In 2008, the academics Lauren Cohen and Andrea Frazzini conducted a study that found a high degree of “investor inattention” surrounding the links between companies and their suppliers. They highlighted an example centring on the long-standing relationship between Coastcast, a manufacturer of golf club heads, and its major customer Calloway, a retailer of golf equipment.

In June 2001, Calloway was downgraded by analysts and slashed its earnings projections by US$50 million; its share price fell by 30 per cent in two days. But these developments did not affect Coastcast’s share price at all, even though Calloway accounted for half of its sales. In fact, Coastcast’s shares only began to adjust in response to the Calloway information two months after it became public knowledge.  

The study found this pattern repeated across other firms in the US stock market. The effect was predictable, such that the authors found a long-short equity strategy based on responding quickly to information of this kind could yield monthly alpha in excess of 150 basis points.16

Investors ignore even blatant links between companies

In their conclusion, Cohen and Frazzini speculated that “if it is true investors ignore even these blatant links, then the informational efficiency of prices to reflect more complex pieces of information is potentially less likely”. Subsequent research has borne this out. A 2014 study from the University of California Davis and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors found less-defined links between companies, discoverable through statistical analysis, are also being ignored by investors.17

Connected thinking in investment

Connections are even more likely to be ignored when their relevance depends on future developments. Consider telecommunications, a sphere that has changed profoundly since AT&T and Bell Labs dominated the field. Nowadays, the industry is a complex ecosystem, with giant conglomerates competing on new technological fronts with upstart players. In this global matrix, innovations seamlessly cross borders, affecting multiple industries.

The next big change could be transformational: 5G. This new network technology is set to influence not just telecoms firms, but companies that manufacture telecoms equipment and indeed any industry that relies on intensive data processing and transfer, from media to healthcare. One particularly interesting shift is set to occur among smartphone makers and their own suppliers, according to Zverev.

“After conversations with companies and analysts and consultations across global investment teams, we took the view 5G could boost the smartphone industry, which has been struggling with underwhelming sales over the past two years. This, in turn, could benefit companies such as semiconductor manufacturer Skyworks, which looks to be undervalued in the market,” Zverev adds.

This kind of connected thinking could give human investors an edge

In an industry that is increasingly adopting AI-driven algorithms to spot correlations and make instantaneous trading decisions, this kind of connected thinking – patiently piecing together the puzzle to build a picture of how technological developments will ripple across multiple industries into the future – could give human investors an edge.

Niven describes connected thinking as “subjective but repeatable”; human investors are better placed than algorithms to draw conclusions based on informational inputs, not just market outputs, and to bring proven approaches to bear on unfamiliar problems. She argues this is the best defence against passive and algorithm-driven investing.

“Quant models work on the assumption the past is the best predictor we have of the future,” says Euan Munro. “But while you can take lessons from something that’s worked well over the last 20 years, that might have been because interest rates were going down over that period. How is the situation going to change when interest rates rise? What we’re always trying to do is to identify the impact of new trends – that’s where humans can offer value over machines.”

The greatest challenge

Another example of the role of connected thinking in investment is the rising importance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. Once considered a niche pursuit, ESG is now understood to be a vital part of the investment decision-making process across all asset classes. It can help deliver long-term value, offer insight into key risks and improve corporate performance on sustainability issues. On a wider scale, connected thinking on ESG is likely to play a major role in the global effort to tackle climate change.

After publishing his study of Bell Labs, Jon Gertner’s next project was The Ice at the End of the World, a book that tells the stories of generations of explorers who mounted expeditions across Greenland. In recent years, these heroic treks have yielded vital data: braving the Arctic winds to drill deep into isolated glaciers, scientists have recovered air pockets that tell us about the rise in temperatures over centuries – and help build a case for action.

“All these [scientists] who have collaborated over the years have put in our laps a wealth of information that we now need to know what do to with. In this case, it’s a matter of politics and policy and creating new technologies to address this challenge,” Gertner says.

Connected thinking may yet pave the way for transformational climate-related technologies

Connected thinking may yet pave the way for transformational climate-related technologies. History provides grounds for hope. In the early 20th century, while looking for new sources of nitrogen to create crop fertiliser, a pair of German chemists literally pulled the solution out of thin air, devising the Haber process that converts nitrogen to ammonia by combining it with hydrogen. Drawing the analogy with the problems we face today, contemporary scientists have developed carbon-capture technologies that can remove harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

While such technological solutions hold promise, carbon emissions will also need to be drastically curtailed at source if climate breakdown is to be avoided. This will require a coordinated effort between governments, markets and individuals. Appreciating our position in the network – and how our behaviour affects the other links in the chain – is a good starting point.

“You might sit in New York or London and think, ‘why should I care about Greenland or the Arctic – these places are thousands of miles away, they don’t necessarily affect my day.’ That’s kind of true at the moment, but it will become less and less true as we understand that interconnectivity of the environment,” Gertner says.

Throughout history, from the deck of the Beagle to the innovation hub at Bell Labs, from the trading desk to the sports field, connected thinking has played a crucial role in bringing people together to solve problems. As we face up to climate change – the greatest challenge of all – it might just help save the world.


  1. Jon Gertner, 'The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation', Penguin, 2012
  2. ‘The science behind the growing importance of collaboration,’ Kellogg School of Management, 6 September 2017
  3. Lauren Cohen and Andrea Frazzini, ‘Economic links and predictable returns,’ The Journal of Finance, Vol LXIII, No 4, August 2008
  4. David Epstein, 'Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World', Macmillan, 2019
  5. David Epstein, ‘What really fuels creative genius: It's about breadth, not depth,’ LinkedIn, 31 May 2019
  6. Greg Williams, 'Inside DeepMind's epic mission to solve science's trickiest problem,’ Wired, July 2019
  7. The scientist is biologist Arturo Casadevall, who has sought to ‘de-specialise’ graduate training to give students a broader range of expertise. See Epstein, Range
  8. ‘Everyone a team leader: shared influence at W.L. Gore & Associates,’ Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 38, No.3, July 2009
  9. Jon Gertner, 'The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation', Penguin, 2012
  10. David Epstein, 'Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World', Macmillan, 2019
  11. ‘Sitting near a high performer can make you better at your job,’ Kellogg School of Management, 8 May 2017
  12. ‘Advanced social technologies and the future of collaboration,’ McKinsey Quarterly, July 2017
  13. ‘Viewpoint: Was CIA ‘too white’ to spot 9/11 clues?’, BBC News, 10 September 2019
  14. Victoria Plaut, ‘Diversity is good for your brain,’ World Economic Forum, 12 July 2018
  15. Charlie Munger, 'Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger', Walsworth Publishing, 2005
  16. Lauren Cohen and Andrea Frazzini, ‘Economic links and predictable returns,’ The Journal of Finance, Vol LXIII, No 4, August 2008
  17. Anna Scherbina and Bernd Schlusche, ‘Cross-Firm Information Flows and the Predictability of Stock Returns’, January 2015

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Aviva Investors Canada, Inc. (“AIC”) is located in Toronto and is based within the North American region of the global organization of affiliated asset management businesses operating under the Aviva Investors name. AIC is registered with the Ontario Securities Commission as a commodity trading manager, exempt market dealer, portfolio manager and investment fund manager. AIC is also registered as an exempt market dealer and portfolio manager in each province of Canada and may also be registered as an investment fund manager in certain other applicable provinces.

Aviva Investors Americas LLC is a federally registered investment advisor with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Aviva Investors Americas is also a commodity trading advisor (“CTA”) registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) and is a member of the National Futures Association (“NFA”). AIA’s Form ADV Part 2A, which provides background information about the firm and its business practices, is available upon written request to: Compliance Department, 225 West Wacker Drive, Suite 2250, Chicago, IL 60606.