Cultivating Serendipity

Source: Make Serendipity Work for You- HBR

  1. Serendipity is a close relative of creativity, which means that it is a capability that can be cultivated, bought and sold.
  2. Serendipity benefits not just from scarcity (forcing people to be creative) but from a degree of sloppiness, tenacity, and dissent. Attempts to dictate serendipity are stifling and impractical.
  3. History matters. Innovation is as much about looking at the past as it is about anticipating the future. It can mean pairing today's observation with those made previously, and often in quite different contexts, as did Pfizer scientists in linking side-effects from clinical trials to a PhD dissertation completed at the University of California, as well as two medical articles published several years before.
  4. Socializing matters. It is very unlikely that James Watson and Francis Crick would have been as efficient in elucidating the structure of DNA without the benefit of those they shared their offices and interest with.
  5. Diversity matters. As John Stuart Mill foresaw: "It is hardly possible to overrate the value...of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar...Such communication has always been, and is peculiarly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress".
  6. Tinkering matters. Occasionally, it pays to turn a blind eye when seeing co-workers tinker with company resources for things they care about personally. Watson and Crick did. The DNA molecule was never their "official" project.



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