Before we can begin to explore how to achieve or create serendipity if is worth having a closer look at what the term actually means. The dictionary offers a succinct but fairly vague and wide reaching definition:
The faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident. Also, the fact or an instance of such a discovery (“Serendipity”, 2017a).
This however, belies the complexity of the term and whether or not it can be engineered within a working environment. Researchers have sought to augment or pin down this somewhat slippery definition with attributes such as open (receptive), connection and surprise whilst also recognising mental effort as part of the process (Cunha, Clegg & Mendonça, 2010; Makri, & Blandford, 2012; McCay-Peet & Toms, 2015). They also provide examples of serendipity, which range from the discovery of products, creation of works of art to chance encounters resulting in life changes.
Watch the two TED talks below each with the term serendipity in the title. Note you do not need to watch both videos in their entirely, just enough to get a sense of their stories to be able to answer the following questions:
- What do the presenters perceive as serendipitous?
- Do the stories have elements that were ‘happy’ ‘unexpected’ ‘surprising’?
- Do you agree?
Everyone seems to agree that serendipity is beneficial but do we really know what it is and if so how do we create or engineer this in a digital world?