Tag Archives: Serendipity

Twitter Is What You Make of It

TwitterThe end of Twitter? Nice title, but Twitter isn’t in trouble if it sticks to, and evolves on, what makes it essential.

Joshua Topolsky’s piece on the New Yorker triggered responses from various users pointing out why Twitter isn’t dead, what it could be, what it isn’t and some fact checking.

It really frustrates me that people keep comparing Twitter to Facebook, and that it’s failing because it’s business doesn’t look like Facebook’s. If everyone wants Twitter to be like Facebook, then Twitter has a long way to go and most likely is in trouble. But Twitter isn’t Facebook, and shouldn’t be Facebook.

That’s the fundamental problem with Twitter: it’s trying to be like other social networks.

Twitter is different, and that’s what makes it great. How so?

Structured serendipity: How Great Ideas Emerge

serendipity for innovationAlmost always great new ideas don’t emerge from within a single person or function, but at the intersection of functions or people that have never met before. As a business leader, you can engineer these connections; serendipity.

Serendipity is the type of word that paralyzes most business leaders because it is a loosey-goosey term that means “let’s see what happens”. Seeing what happens is not what traditional businesses aim to do when developing their strategies. Yet, many of the greatest innovations have sprung from serendipity: Happy accidents that sprung from tinkering, chance encounters that happen because you didn’t plan for something in advance; serendipity happens all the time.

So, what is the easiest way to engineer serendipity?

Two ways: varying what you learn and where you learn it.

Detecting seemingly random concepts is an act of creativity, this doesn’t happen if all you do is talk to the same people you always talk to, read (if at all) the same stuff you always read. It also doesn’t happen if you never visit places you’ve never been to.

A few years back I conceived a mechanism to engineer serendipity for a client: The Lunch Club.

Basically, in almost all organizations most employees always go to lunch with the same people. The Lunch Club aims to change this by setting up colleagues from different departments or with people from outside the organization for lunch; it happens once a week.

The result from these random interactions is new perspectives, new ideas; people who are more aware. When business leaders talk about developing their employees strategic thinking skills, this is one way to do it. There are many other ways to engineer serendipity inside an organization, such as moving from one workspace to another to be with different people, job swapping with colleagues with other departments, etc..

As an individual, I’ve benefited from serendipity more times than I can count; and deliberately try to create serendipity. What do I do to engineer serendipity? I’ve already told you about my practice of talking to someone new every week, learning from their trade and then immediately thinking about how I can use some of those ideas in my craft.

Creativity is about thinking new things, that means making uncommon connections between ideas from other domains. When all you do is talk to the same people, read the same thing over and over again you are moving in a straight line along with everyone else. Parallel lines never cross; serendipity requires diversity.

Bottom line: We should each invest a few hours a week, in reading stuff that has nothing to do with our day jobs, in a setting that has nothing in common with our regular workspaces. That kind of structured serendipity just might help us become more creative, and I doubt that it can hurt.

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: http://bit.ly/WaTdnb #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.

How Happy Accidents Happen through serendipity

Two weeks ago we had a serendipitous event. A happy accident. We had a scheduled meeting with a partner at 8 am on Wednesday morning and our partner didn’t make it because of family issues. What’s interesting is that our partners office is on an adjacent street to an office building that is the first of it’s kind in Latin America. It’s the first sustainable building in the region.

It is a monument to innovation in my opinion because it is designed to be environmental friendly. Owned by VIA Corporativo, the building looks unlike anything out there but the most prominent feature it has is on the inside.

It has this hole in the middle. This serves a purpose, as this is what keeps the building cool and lets in natural light. The interior decoration is made up of recycled wood and concrete that are locally sourced.