Expect the unexpected

Expect the unexpected

Finding what you didn’t look for. The Post-it, tea-bags, penicillin and the x-ray are all invented via serendipity. But also artists like Merijn Bolink are using the concept for their work. How can we use this principle in our daily lives?

Serendipity is the art of finding something valuable what you didn’t look for. It’s discovering new things by accident, using sagacity. The key is that you’re open for these unexpected things and that you’re able to place it in a context, where new connections arise.

Trial and error is not serendipity as you’re working towards a specific goal. However, the side-effects of experiments can lead to unexpected outcomes (like the discovery of the Post-it). Also luck is not the same as serendipity. Where luck is most of the time an external factor, the openness of seeing the unexpected comes from within.

Therefore you can create serendipity yourself. Maybe you won’t be in a situation where you will discover a new x-ray, but you can also apply it in your regular day. Look at the projects you’re working on and the outcome it has to give. Look at what side-effects you see in the process of moving towards a specific goal and think if you can use it in another scenario.

Moving towards a more efficient operation might not work by automating a certain elements of your process, but an unexpected side-effect might be that the employee satisfaction increases. Or results do show that the quality within your team didn’t increase by trainings that were provided, where an unexpected side-effect was that the level of team cohesion increased. So even if you might not discover the new penicillin, being open for the unexpected has an impact for sure.