- yes but…
- we have no time for that
- can’t be done
- let’s be realistic
- that’s not logical
- we need more research
not my responsibility
that is a MAJOR change
the market is not ready yet
we will consider the option
that’s in our future plans
since when are you the expert ?
In a nutshell, serendipity is Luck Plus. Some people say that you can make your own luck, you can’t. What you can do is increase the potential of Serendipity. Here is a good example which I frequently use.
A simple but powerful example of the power of the serendipity comes from Japan Railways. During the construction of a tunnel through Mt. Tanigawa, engineers encountered many problems with water.
Just as they began to design a traditional draining solution enter an enterprising railway worker. He thought that the water tasted so good it ought to be bottled and sold as a premium brand mineral water rather than simply pumping it away.
And so “Oshimizu” was born. It became so popular that Japan Railways installed Oshimizu vending machines on every one of its platforms. Marketing material emphasises the purity of Mt. Tanigawa’s snow which is the source of the water and also the slow percolation through the rock which adds minerals. The product grew to include juices as well as iced and hot teas and coffees. By 1994, sales of Oshimizu branded drinks had risen to $47 million.
So Luck or Skill? Well as we can see from the Japan Railways example an unexpected event is nothing on its own. We need luck and an ability to react appropriately in a corporate environment.
So what does serendipity add? ‘Luck’ was having unwanted water in the railway tunnel and a railway worker who thought he would sample it. The ‘Plus’ is having a company culture that allowed the railway worker to put forward his idea and for Japan Railways to examine the possibilities and act accordingly. Japan Railways did not manufacture luck but were able to profit from unexpected situations due to being prepared.
People – the ‘cast’ of the drama If you have the luxury of choosing people to work with then this may present a dilemma. On the one hand, you want as much diversity as possible, because that is where new insights and connections will come from.
On the other hand, they must work well together, because creative work requires a high level of personal openness and risk taking, and a lot of interaction.
If possible you should:
- Choose people who have the skills to manage high levels of difference comfortably.
- Design sessions/meetings so that they are less sensitive to the adverse effects of large interpersonal differences.
- Facilitate the session in such a way that you ‘manage’ adverse effects as (or before) they emerge.
- Choose people who can tolerate wide levels of difference
- Choose people who are compatible temperamentally, but differ widely in their area of expertise
People are less likely to be ‘thrown’ by minor interpersonal clashes if they have a reasonably solid personality, a degree of self-awareness, and a good sense of humour. Avoid big status differences, unless it is very clear that there are excellent, pre-existing, levels of trust between the people involved.
Have fun! Laughter and a light touch can defuse many tensions and manage the expectations of participants so that they know this will be a somewhat ‘special’ event, with unusual people. Remember, it is usually easier for people to feel uninhibited and take risks with a group they will not see again.
Most, if not all of us have either a fixed way of doing things or a fixed way of thinking about things. These fixed patterns are known as mindsets and they can severely limit our actions in both business and private life.
Imagine that you take the same route each day when you walk to your place of work. Each day you buy the same newspaper and the same sandwich for lunch. Over time you begin to get a little fed up with your choice of sandwich and the newspaper does not seem to engage you as it once did. If you had turned right at the end of your road instead of left you would have been introduced 6 months ago to a brand new shop that had a larger stock of newspapers and magazines and also a more impressive selection of sandwiches, filled rolls, cakes (and salads for the health conscious). Unless a friend or colleague tells you of this new opportunity you will remain blissfully unaware of it. Just think of the new opportunities and new faces if you varied your walk to work on a weekly basis!
So what has this got to do with your business? Well take a long look at yourself and the people that you work with. Do you advertise in the same way all of the time? Do you make exactly the same products every day? Do you try anything different at all to try and improve your business or do you do the same as you have always done? A simple change of perspective or attitude may be all that is required. Even if your business is successful, you would be interested in new business opportunities, wouldn’t you?
The effects of mindsets can be greatly exaggerated when working alone and we all need to make an effort to overcome this. Note that changes you make in your working life will affect your private life and vice versa.
Is it possible that the impulsiveness and quick-thinking that accompanies ADHD may also enhance creativity? Given that many people who are diagnosed with this condition, what role could medication have in the creative process? Does stimulant medication hamper creativity, or boost it?
The ADHD brain may not be held back as much by constraints on thinking. In a study conducted in 2006 (Abraham et al.), adolescents with varying disorders (including ADHD) along with a control group, were individually assessed. The ADHD group was found to have a higher rate of being able to overcome constraining examples, what we call “thinking outside the box”, but had difficulty creating an invention from imagery.
In another study (White and Shah, 2006), people with ADHD were found to score higher than those without ADHD in a measure of divergent thinking (i.e. coming up with creative solutions to a problem). However, people with ADHD did not score as well as those without ADHD on a measure of convergent thinking (i.e. giving the “correct” answer to a test question).
A later study also discovered that people with ADHD scored higher in original thinking and creative achievement than those without ADHD. It was also found that people with ADHD preferred generating ideas, while those without ADHD preferred clarifying problems and developing ideas.
Contrary to popular opinion, (stimulant) medication may not hamper creativity. In a double-blind placebo-controlled study, Farah et al. (2009) measured sixteen young adults on four measures of creativity. Two of the measures required divergent thinking, while the other two required convergent thinking. The study found that the medication did improve convergent thinking while no negative effects were found on convergent and divergent thought measures.
It is evident that more research is required, however it would appear that there is a direct correlation between ADHD and increased creativity. Given that ADHD is but one marker on a spectrum of so called ‘mental disorders’ it is obvious that much is still to be learnt.
When working with others it is useful to work with as wide a variety of individuals as possible. You may not value the knowledge held by these people but it is not their knowledge that we wish to tap into – it is their thinking.
Think of this exercise as harnessing the computing power of a number of networked laptops rather than simply examining the contents of their hard drives. Remember, the views of non-experts should be as welcome as those of experts.
As I wander around on a daily basis I find myself taking note of signs and posters and interpreting them in ways that the original author had never intended. For me it is a humorous exercise but try it on your own scribblings and see if your communications are up to scratch.
Seen outside a pub – Good Food Served Here. Well would you actually deliberately sell bad food? Why not use the space for a meaningful marketing message?
Seen near a school – Slow Children Crossing. Am I to drive slowly because I am near children or am I being warned that these particular children are in need of cattle prods?
Seen in the toilets at a motorway service station – Wet Floor. Is this a warning or an instruction?
Road sign in Essex – Secret Nuclear Bunker
Seen on newspaper stand at motorway services – Please refrain from reading the newspapers
Sign at Northampton General Hospital – Family Planning Advice, Use Rear Entrance