You don’t reach Serendib by plotting a course for it. You have to set out in good faith for elsewhere and lose your bearings … serendipitously.
- John Barth, The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor
A teacher of ours at the GreenMBA, Julianne Maurseth, likes to say, “People gather and things happen.”
And what is the most wonderful thing that can happen when people gather? That would be serendipity.
Serendipity is the emergence of desirable novelty from a chance encounter, the discovery of something wonderful, unknown and unpredictable. It is the act of unexpected cross-pollination, the seed of something new.
Much of lasting value comes into being serendipitously. How many of the most amazing things that have happened to you have happened because of an overheard word, an accidental encounter, a connection made by a friend? Serendipity is the antithesis of control.
As Isaac Asimov said: ‘The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” but “That’s funny.”‘
Serendipity is fundamental to how the universe works.
So how do you best generate serendipity? How do you create an ecosystem of innovation, a culture of creativity? How do you nurture the conditions for it to occur?
- Gather requisite diversity.
- Seek originality in each person, as that amplifies the creative potential of the network. Find the positive deviants.
- Bring people together with shared values, focus, and high cognitive diversity.
- Add novelty–people who don’t already know each other–into the system.
- Find people who are actively seeking serendipity, as that will amplify the serendipitous nature of the network. Such people will have large active networks.
- Serendipity occurs when you go looking for it. The more connected you are to the more different things, the more serendipity will emerge. Knowing 100 people leads to a different order of serendipity than knowing 10 people.
- Serendipity occurs when you recognize it – it is present all the time, if you are looking for it.
- Nurture a sharing, evolutionary culture.
- Set a generative field by modeling the culture as one that values openness, collaboration, social, playfulness, the future, communication, exploration, learning, diversity and creativity.
- As in improv, the key to nurturing the emergence of the collective flow is to dance with it, play with it, and seek joy with it.
- Seek coherence not synchronization.
- Weave the network together.
- Move the culture from: attention -> awareness -> caring -> engagement.
- Help people gain familiarity and trust in the network.
- Encourage parallel communication to flow.
- Once the network gains coherence, a meta neural network begins to emerge, a field of serendipitous possibility.
- Issue a provocation.
- Set the system into dynamic motion.
- Ask the right question to stimulate the collective evolutionary potential of the network to unfold.
- Light the spark, that illuminates the whole to itself.
So though you may not know which way you need to go to reach Serendib, or even where it is, there is a way to greatly increase the possibility of reaching that destination, wherever it may be.
You will be surprised at what unfolds!
(#appreciation for inspiration, including, but not limited to @NurtureGirl, @VenessaMiemis, @RossDawson, @kevince, Napier Collyns, @RaineBjorendahl, @InnovationWatch, Bob Horn, @graham_iff, Maureen O’Hara, Roshanda Cummings, @jhagel, @CreatvEmergence, and @curtisogden)