The Lessons We Get from luck: Innovative Ideas and Serendipity
With our history dotted with depression, recession and financial crisis, it’s easy to assume that innovation is less likely to take place due to lack of resources and funding. But that isn’t exactly the case, because if you look at history closely, a lot of innovative ideas were conceived in history’s most trying times. Is this luck or good fortune? Ironic it may seem, but these innovations teach us that we can create with whatever we have at hand and that it is possible to create a work environment that supports good fortune, allowing you to catch “luck” if it occurs. This is called planned serendipity.
What is planned serendipity?
Serendipity is a “happy accident” or “good luck”, a fortunate mistake. It’s finding something good or useful while not specifically looking for it.
Planned serendipity is creating its own good luck by creating an environment that fosters “happy accidents”. If you adopt the right framework, your company may face good fortune, not just once or twice, but all the time.
Planned Serendipity: 7 skills
(Inspired by “Get Lucky” book by Thor Muller)
1 – Motion
When Steve Jobs planned Pixar’s office, he wanted as many employee interactions as possible. He decided to work in an open structure with its core services located in a central atrium. The results? Employees were bumping into each other and thus increasing “creative collisions”. That kind of office allows employees to inspire each other and generate new ideas.
2 – Preparation
“Chance favors only prepared minds.” Louis Pasteur
Prepared minds are curious, they find meaning in new information and consider problems in new ways. They notice patterns, capture them and are open to unexpected connections.
3 – Divergence
Most companies focus totally on their core market and products. This kind of vision shuts them off from new, serendipitous opportunities. Don’t close doors; keep your eyes open to new and unexpected opportunities.
4 – Activation
To implement serendipity within your company, you need to activiate four shifts:
- The “ambient shift” means designing your environment to create an atmosphere that encourages new behaviors and thinking.
- The “temporal shift” some companies have a more relaxed temporality, which allows people time to time to interact in new ways.
- The “social shift” allows collaboration and personal expression among your employees.
- The “emotional shift” helps creating an environment that encourages people to be more receptive to each other’s new ideas.
5 – Connection
The more interactions exist among your employees, the more opportunities they will have for productive and creative encounters. You can organize networking events, professional associations, think thanks, sport clubs, charities and other community groups.
6 – Permeability
Many companies are impermeable fortresses. Instead of creating obstacles between workers and the outside environment, organizations should be more permeable. Companies should exchange information with employees, within departments, with suppliers and customers.
7 – Attraction
The luckiest people are those who work hard to develop those serendipity skills. These skills include:
- Demonstrating meaning /purpose
- Developing an clear/reputation/ identity
- Aiming for bigger accomplishments
- Getting the word out
Here are some serendipity examples
In the middle of the Oil Crisis in 1974, Post-it Notes were introduced by Arthur Fry and Spencer Silver (3M). Dr. Spencer was in the process of making a strong adhesive but he accidentally created a reusable low-stack adhesive. Post-it notes have become today’s most popular re-positional notes brand, often used to write on memos and comments in a stack of paper. It also inspired today’s modern web and mobile applications of organizers and reminders. The accidental discovery of post-it-notes is the living proof that innovative ideas are not always intentional, sometimes you come across them when trying to figure out a solution to the problem, and find that the idea in itself can be a solution to another problem.
Of course, who would miss the internet as one of the most innovative ideas ever? In 1991, the internet was launched when one computer was able to send a message to another computer using the ARPAnet. Today, the internet has significant effect in our lives, making communication easy through instant messaging and emails. It also expanded our virtual network through social networking, blogs and forums, and made shopping easier through e-commerce. The internet holds a lot of potential to develop for the following years, making everything seem compact and portable. It only goes to show that if we explore something, tweak it, dissect it, assemble it once again… as long you are exploring its potential the possibilities are limitless.
In 1945, engineer Percy Spencer was working with magnetrons, electronic devices that create microwave radio signals. As he stood next to a functioning magnetron, Spencer felt the chocolate bar in his pocket suddenly soften to a gooey consistency. He deduced that the microwaves emanating from the magnetron had melted his chocolate bar. This serendipitous insight led to the invention of the microwave oven.
- It’s possible to create its own good luck by creating an environment that engenders serendipity.
- Encourage “creative collisions” among employees
- Prepared minds find meaning in new information and unexpected situation.
- Steve Jobs, Pixar, 3M, Innocentive, Zappos, Ideo, Frog Design, Facebook and many other companies strategically nourish and support serendipity.
Connecting the right information at the right moment can make a whole lot of difference in our lives and society, and the more we think about it, the more we realize how thankful we are that they were indeed created.
Please share this insight to inspire people to work with more passion and lead with creativity. It’s free like this ad free article. Thank you 🙂