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Posted by Erica Driver on October 10, 2007
by Erica Driver.
As part of the run-up to the Business Innovation Factory summit (BIF-3) currently going on in Providence, Rhode Island, attendees participated in an online social network. On the social networking site, the most common one-word answers to the question “What are 5 keys to innovation?” were rolled up into a tag cloud (see figure). Words that rose to the top of the list included creativity, collaboration, and passion. These are all good.
But as I sit in the back of the theater listening to the storytellers (they each get 15 minutes of stage time to share experiences they’ve had with innovation or to participate in a short interview) I realize we missed something big: serendipity — fed by sheer dumb luck. According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, serendipity is the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought after. And luck is a force that brings good fortune or adversity, or the events or circumstances that operate for or against an individual. Luck, when good, can lead to serendipitous events and encounters. A couple of BIF storytellers shared some insights into and examples of the role of serendipity in innovation:
Without those serendipitous moments, a person's ability to innovate is limited. One random encounter, as Eric Bonabeau said today during his time on stage, changes you and leads you to the next encounter. The question I see many information and knowledge management professionals wrestling with -- and trying to address with collaboration and knowledge management strategies and collaboration tools like social networking, expertise location, and virtual worlds: How can you increase the odds of chance encounters being the next encounter being a good one and leading to fantastic innovation? Or, on a bigger scale, how can you create a company culture where the workforce experiences more occurrences of happy accidents? This very question should be at the heart of many organizations' enterprise collaboration strategies.