To live a happy life, to be good in your work and to meet new, interesting people, that’s a great goal for everyone. One way of achieving that is the ability to create an atmosphere, which is fruitful for serendipity. That challenge of creating those conditions can be studied on three levels; on personal, community and institutional level.
Serendipity on individual level is often easiest to harness, when a person is fully committed to something, which he wants passionately to achieve. With the clear objective in his mind he is active and motivated, which in turn leads to more interactions with people, who – in his thinking – might help him to achieve the goal. Here comes the trap – the blind spot. How to, despite of the drive, still keep the mind open for those serendipitous chance encounters or valuable discoveries during the journey. My understanding is that tranquility and solitude is needed in order to reflect and ponder and in order to enable this “Heureka” moment to happen. In this phase a “serendipitous calendar” and rural, close to the nature locations are of great help. Just watching a water to flow in a small burn or listening the singing of the birds might be enough to make it happen — or sitting underneath the apple tree like Newton was supposed to have done.
Harnessing serendipity on community level is then a more complex issue. The attraction factors are playing a big role here. And of course the main challenge is, how to attract a diverse group of people to your event or coworking space or science park. It’s pretty easy to get people with same interest, same kind of background, social status and geographical location to get together. But then the serendipity potential is limited. Using virtual collaboration platforms might help geographically dispersed people to join the community, the other option is to design your physical premises so that there is a natural mix of locals and visitors.
Serendipity on institutional level is hardest to harvest. Established companies are not that kind of environments, where serendipity is flourishing. Tight schedules, full calendars, organizational hierarchy, conflicting values on personal level versus company level, lower motivation (“I just work for a paycheck”) – does not sound like an environment for serendipitous happenings. Of course there are some great companies, who care about their personnel’s ability to have chance for serendipity, like Google, which is always mentioned in this context, but sadly enough this is true in many companies.
“We want you to innovate,but only after you’ve done your real job” – and sadly enough this means in our context the big dilemma: “We want you to have serendipitous experiences and wonderful life, but only after you’ve done your real job”.