question to innovate

What can innovators do to improve the chances they’ll encounter serendipity?

question to innovate

This is the ninth of a series of weekly posts where I will answer a few common questions about innovation. Please feel free to add your own response. Also, if you have any questions you think we should discuss, let me know.

Here is a question from yesterday’s #innochat about Serendipity and Innovation. People contributed some great answers, some of which I aggregated below.

My response: Let loose, discover, follow your nose not what people say, embrace chance in every single way. Adopt a “so what, let’s do it” mindset and see what happens. No holding back!

What can innovators do to improve the chances they’ll encounter serendipity?

Question two of yesterday’s Serendipity and Innovation #innochat weekly discussion

Storified by Jorge Barba · Thu, Nov 15 2012 18:37:15

A3: If everyone in the room looks at you with incredulity, stick with it. You could be on the edge of innovation. #innochatShelly Lucas
@jorgebarba frustration and roadblocks often lead to serendipity #innochatKevin McFarthing
Brilliant! "@CreativeSage: Yes, #intuition is very important: RT @InnovationFixer: Listen to the sixth sense – intuition #innochat"Sunil Malhotra
My view is that under the radar iteration of ideas is critical to serendipitous discovery. Lower the stakes! #innochatMatt Kingdon
RT @DrewCM: Another pattern of preparing for serendipity I see today is being open enough to witness it. Be still. Listen. Learn. #innochatCathryn Hrudicka
A3 – be open-minded, have a game plan but not cast in stone, look in the right places, listen to diverse inputs #innochatKevin McFarthing
RT @jmass: If you are curious, serendipity will find you. #innochat [great one!]Thierry de Baillon
RT @marcio_saito: Serendipity requires diversity. Parallel lines never cross. #innochatKellee O’Reilly
One of the best innovation tips I ever learned: Think Backwards. Here’s what I mean: #innochatJoe Stanganelli
“@mattkingdon: My view is that innovation is allergic to ‘overthink – it’s a doing not thinking sport #innochat”Brenda Johima

Download the full #innochat transcript.

  • The word ‘serendipity’ in some instances implies ‘random’ or by chance. There are activities that can improve the likelihood of success. For instance an innovator can be inherently skilled at deliberately forcing a connection from seemingly nothing. I do prefer to think ‘serendipity’ emulates the trait espoused by Gary Player: “the harder I practiced, the luckier I got”. Taking a leaf out of Whirlpools playbook they have trained 36000 employees and established coaching and mentoring conducted by 2000 blackbelts. I am sure their rate of ‘serendipity’ is high. Even if your company is not as ‘amped’ as Whirlpool there is nothing stopping an individual looking at other areas where a similar issue or benefit can be seen or conversely challenge the inherent rules and assumptions we are using. Even if this seems ‘advanced’ there is nothing stopping us ‘topping up the freshness store cupboard’ through ‘normal’ activities such as taking a new form of transport to work, planning monthly lunches with ‘newbies’ getting out of your normal environment for at least half a day a week or reinventing a job. True ‘serendipity’ requires stimulus to jolt the brain out of ‘normal’ thinking. Freshness and stimulus wont give you the idea itself but it will provide the raw material to allow serendipity to occur more often

    • Hi Mark,

      I agree with you and am fully committed to exploiting serendipity. Just sitting around waiting for something to click is not serendipity. Serendipity happens when we’re not thinking. Like you said, it happens in chance encounters.

      And people knows this, but business-as-usual is a trap. For most, serendipity has to be systematically programmed.

      I’ve been thinking about how to create a business concept around the idea of serendipity-as-a-service. Something like Stumbleupon for the offline world! Groupon kind of does this but it isn’t so obvious.

      I think businesses of all flavors are having a hard time adapting because they’ve never embraced serendipity. What other luminaries call fast-fluid-flexible simply means they embrace serendipity in their business models.

      Have you thought about serendipity-as-a-service?