Serendipity, the Art of Increasing Happy Accidents
You know when you do something and think one thing will happen and then suddenly, something completely different happens… and that different something is exponentially better than what you were going for? THAT is serendipity. My favorite concise explanation is ‘accidentally finding something you weren’t looking for’.
Happy accidents may seem like fodder for a painting show, but serendipity is what allows for greatness—what allows for an organization to break ahead of the pack. Serendipity doesn’t follow rules of physics like light or gravity. You can’t force it. You can encourage it though, by doing things that serendipity loves.
Serendipity needs variety. If you’re an idea person, don’t stop at the first idea. Come up with an idea you love, put it aside and keep going. If you’re an engineer, don’t stop at the first solution. Come up with a solution that will satisfy the problem, put it aside and keep going! You don’t lose anything by pushing beyond your gut reaction. Your gut reaction is the sensible reaction that 9 out of 10 of your peers would reach. Your gut reaction is the expected solution. Your gut reaction is everything you’ve ever seen or done before. But your second and third solutions… those are you. Those are unique to you. That is where you use your experience to create something new. Serendipity loves it when you push yourself outside of your comfort zone and try something new.
Serendipity loves action! Don’t sit on an idea that gets you excited, talk about it with colleagues, draw it,
your idea into being. The worst thing you can do to an idea is to ignore it. Take action! Your idea grows and gains life by imagining how it would exist in the real world. If you’re a writer, write a blog about your idea and encourage feedback from your readers. If you’re an artist, draw your idea and don’t just draw it once, draw it over and over and show it to everyone.
Serendipity wants for you to fail. Love your ideas, share your ideas, and be honest about your ideas. If the feedback isn’t great—let your ideas go. The act of failing is wonderful. You want to fail, and you want to fail fast because finding out what doesn’t work is as powerful as finding out what does. We live in a culture where failing is perceived as a negative thing, when really, all failing means is that you tried something and it didn’t work. Once you identify something that doesn’t work, stop doing it. Take your new experience and go back to generating a variety of ideas for something that WOULD work. (See the cycle?)
Serendipity loves generosity. An idea is bigger than a person. Share your idea with your entire team. As your team breathes life into your idea let it become your team’s idea. Share acknowledgement and credit freely. Encourage contribution from the most unlikely of sources. Cross-pollination from unlikely sources is where Serendipity shines brightest.
Be willing to think vigorously. Be willing to share your ideas. Be willing to listen to feedback. Be willing to let go of ideas that you love when they don’t work. Be willing to share credit when things go well.
Do these things and you’ll be amazed at the happy accidents you’ll find. Take action. Think big. Be brave.